Articles are available for reprint as long as the author is acknowledged: Domenick J. Maglio Ph.D.

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Correct Label: PPD- Pathetic Parent Disorder

Every year our mental health industry creatively packages a new catchy 2-4-letter abbreviation to capture the imagination of the American public. Like the yearly most popular name for a new baby, the letters for disorders change every year. This year’s winning letters are AD, which is a tie between Autistic Disorder and Asperger Disorder.

Past winners were ADD, Attention Deficit Disorder, ODD Oppositional Defiant Disorder, CD Conduct Disorder, TD Tourettes Disorder and SAD Selective Anxiety Disorder. All these labels have one thing in common. They focus on the child’s inappropriate behavior not the reasons for being improperly socialized.

In the past when we saw a child act out we first looked at the parent’s behavior. The way they reacted to situations was most important. Were the parents willing to stand their ground regardless of not being liked by the child? Friends and family scrutinized the way the parents disciplined their child, the relationship between the parents and the amount of time devoted to the family. No words were needed to be spoken but the glances spoke volumes.

Everyone accepted the role of parents as the heads of the household; children were expected to listen to parents not the other way around. Parents were supposed to help the children deal with life. This meant the parent was expected to do everything possible to make sure the child behaved. The parents knew the ultimate evaluation of their parenting was how the child turned out.

A revolutionary concept of “returning to the past” has great promise. Examine the parents. If they are not fulfilling their parental duties then label them PPD, instead of labeling the child. “Pathetic Parent Disorder” is a more accurate pinpointing of the cause of acting out children.

Today too many parents are unwilling to limit their daily indulgences for the sake of time devoted to the family. Instead they believe they only need to set up an appointment with a mental health professional to solve all the family’s issues. The parents want to believe the solution to all their problems lies with the problem child. The professional obliges by first labeling the child then sending him on his way with a magic pill. The child’s disorder is supposedly cured.

This process has been a winner for the medical and pharmaceutical industries and a loser for the child and his parents. The medical route temporarily lessens the child’s actions, only to have them flare up with greater intensity after the drug’s effectiveness wears off. Although the parents are not the winners, they are relieved to transfer their responsibility and authority to someone else. The other children in the family and especially the child whose normal development has been ruined by the label and the drugs is the loser.

The consequence of a parent not dedicating sufficient time to their child is a poorly trained child. Labeling and drugging a child into submission does not do anything to improve the quality of the parent’s life. It requires the parents to spend more time in offices and battling the child over taking the drugs then they would have had to spend getting the child properly socialized in the first place.

Modern parents can end their dependency on the pharmaceutical and psychiatric industries by realizing they have the power to mold their child’s behavior and character.

Only through guilt for their shameless behavior towards their children can we nudge the parents back into their rightful position as heads of the family. The solution to these American families is to change who is being labeled. To focus solely on the child has not worked as it avoids addressing the accountability of the parents.

The new PPD, Pathetic Parent Disorder label is the answer. Unlike the child label gimmicks of the past this label will empower the parents to do their job. The parent’s inconsistent, ineffective, selfish or lazy behavior will be obvious to themselves and others.

Revitalized parents will see the effectiveness of their acting as parents. When they realize their child CAN listen, CAN obey and CAN gain mental strength to overcome any limitations they will become more successful in school.

Parents united, making the necessary decisions and consistently following through on them will result in children who will accept parent’s authority and eventually will appreciate them for being loving parents.

Dr. Maglio is the author of Invasion Within and Essential Parenting. He is a psychotherapist and the owner/director of Wider Horizons School. Visit:



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