Escondido, CA

No consequences . . . or, how to make a monster

It was one of our biggest Thanksgiving dinners ever – aunts and uncles, cousins all over the place – and my Aunt Naomi had just announced desert time, taking orders for either cherry or pumpkin pie.
Immediately bursting into tears was my daughter, 8 or maybe 9-years-old at the time . . . sobbing. She hadn’t finished her meal, and that was one of the rules in our household. If you didn’t finish your meal, no dessert.
This was a protocol we had adopted – the use of reasonable consequences, based on our reading of “Children, the Challenge,” a parent-advice manual by Rudolf Dreikurs. Written in the 60’s, it is still available, still getting mostly five stars by Amazon reviewers.
In a nutshell, Dreikurs advises that when a child misbehaves, the parent establishes a consequence – not a punishment but an unemotional algorithm — if you do A, than B will happen. The consequence set should be actually doable and the follow-through un-elastic, a 100% follow-through (though in case of the Thanksgiving dinner in question, in front of so many cousins, we relented on the dessert.)
For Dreikurs, the idea was the opposite of what he called “swatting flies,” constantly threatening punishment for bad behavior but never following through, thus creating a continuous loop that lets the child know there is no punishment, no consequence, and so enabling continued bad behavior.
While I’m pretty sure we had many a lapse, this made our child-raising a lot easier (well, at least easier than what we saw other parents doing).
But to my point (which you were hoping for): I vividly remembered my daughter’s tears as I listened to Marjorie Taylor Greene’s recent attempt to exonerate herself from the wads of nonsense and lies she’s been spouting for the past ten years or so.
“I was allowed to say things that were not true,” she said, in explanation, sounding very much like a contrite 8 or 9-year-old. At first, this struck me as just as nutty as many of the other things she had said. But taking it at face value, I figure it may actually be the very best explanation of who she is and how she came to be that person.
She apparently has lived a life without any restraint, no one (parents? friends? certainly not voters) attempting to muzzle or in any way punish her – the House stripping her of any committee assignments among the very first instances of real pushback but obviously coming much too late.
And this is also the very real explanation for the Donald Trump we have seen for the last several years – most tragically in the last four.
Until losing a second term as president, Trump has lived a life without real consequences, without punishment. He has been able to flout every rule, every law, without the normal results that you or I or any other rational human being would face as a result of bad behavior.
As his niece Mary Trump describes in her book detailing his upbringing, he was raised by a father who not just praised, but applauded his obnoxious bullying, his penchant for trampling anyone in his way, his refusal to ever lose.
Despite his multiple bankruptcies, his father provided millions to maintain his stumbling real estate career. And the rule of law? — meaningless to him, not applying to whatever he could work around, even his sexual proclivities ignored. Shortly before the election, a video recorded his predation of women, in his own words, but millions of men and women then voting for him. It made no difference.
And his entire time in the White House has been a matter of being enabled by Republicans, and anyone attempting disagreement or contradiction, any “disloyalty,” being fired. He was most significantly enabled by Mitch McConnell who only recently has faced the consequences of this for his party and the country: mob violence and an existential threat to the Constitution.
The need for a clear consequence to restrain Trump is of course what the Democrats are attempting, with their second impeachment and trial. Additionally, he is being faced with personally repaying millions of dollars to creditors – multiple banks long ago realizing the risk of doing business with him – and the allegation of rape resulting in possible jail time.
Will any of these consequences serve to stifle him, get him to realize some actual limits to the way he lives, the way he acts, the way he lies? Perhaps. But then it may be much too late, given his penchant for believing his own delusions.
The best we can hope for is that the Republican party will eventually come to its senses and provide a consequence, the worst punishment of all . . . by simply ignoring him.

*Note: Opinions expressed by columnists and letter writers are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the newspaper.

3 responses to “No consequences . . . or, how to make a monster”

  1. larry r markey says:

    Mr. Don, two things strike me as I read your latest your rant. First, do you know the word positive? I haven’t seen one positive word in your screeds…ever! Second, Thanksgiving is over and all things related to it. We are now in 2021. Happy New Year! This is a new year and time to think, act and speak positive for all!

  2. Stein says:

    Didn’t take you too long to find something negative to write about President Trump again; did you hear that he was acquitted again (second time)? This is great news for you, as when he wins again in 2024 you won’t have to look far for material.

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