Good question. People began losing confidence in the traditional approach to child rearing during the 1920s and 1930s. Science was making great contributions to their lives through inventions and discoveries, so it was reasonable to think that the experts could provide a better approach to parenting. An array of gurus--educators, psychiatrists, and psychologists--rose to the challenge. They began passing off their personal biases and opinions as scientific fact. Dr. J. B. Watson, the first and most bizarre of the lot, became enormously influential in that era. Known as the father of behaviorism, he offered what he called a foolproof method of child rearing, and mothers bought it hook, line, and sinker. If only they would follow his advice, he said, they could produce any kind of child they wanted: "a doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief, and--yes--even a beggarman and a thief." 1
Watson believed that the mind does not exist--that the human brain functions as a simple switchboard connecting stimuli and responses. From that ridiculous foundation, he went on to offer parents advice that was truly off-the-wall. He wrote:
Never hug and kiss [your children], never let them sit in your lap. If you must, kiss them once on the forehead when they say good night. Shake hands with them in the morning. Remember when you are tempted to pet your child that mother love is a dangerous instrument--an instrument which may inflict a never-healing wound, a wound which will make infancy unhappy, adolescence a nightmare, an instrument which may wreck your adult son or daughter's vocational future and their chances for marital happiness. 2
Unbelievably, millions of parents followed these notions explicitly for nearly two decades. A generation of mothers and fathers worked diligently to condition their children the way Watson recommended. This strange era in child rearing illustrates the way public confidence shifted from the time-honored wisdom of the Judeo-Christian ethic to the bizarre rumblings of pseudoscientific claptrap.
Unfortunately, Watson was succeeded by a long line of self-appointed "experts" who dreamed up and promoted their own concoctions. Included among their conclusions were the beliefs that loving discipline is damaging, authority is "undemocratic," religious instruction is hazardous, defiance is a valuable ventilator of anger, premarital sex is healthy, "children's rights" should supersede parental leadership, and on and on it went.
In recent years, this humanistic perspective has become even more extreme and anti-Christian. It encompasses everything from "sex equality training" for three year-olds to teaching homosexual and lesbian propaganda to elementary school children. In short, the 20th century spawned a generation of professionals who ignored what has been learned in 2,000 years of parenting and offered what they considered "better ideas." Most of what they cooked up was ridiculous at best and dangerous at worst.
Given that background, you can understand why I have never tried to invent new concepts or methodology. Instead, my purpose has been simply to reconnect us with the traditional wisdom of the ages. I didn't concoct it, nor have I sought to change it. My task has been merely to report what I believe to be the prescription of the Creator Himself. And I am convinced that this understanding will remain viable as long as mothers and fathers and children cohabit the face of the earth.
- J. B. Watson, Psychological Care of Infant and Child, Family in America Series, 1972 (reprint of 1928 edition).
All marriages go through periods of discord, where it feels like all you do is argue. Couples must, however, remain faithful to their vows and fight for their relationship instead of waging war against it. On this classic Family Talk broadcast, Dr. James Dobson, along with Drs. Scott Stanley and Gary Smalley, answer questions from the audience about marital issues. As you listen to their heartfelt discussion, you may find the answers you have been longing for.