Old ways best for the young, Dr. Spock says

October 06, 1993|By Clint Williams | Clint Williams,Arizona Republic

For someone once labeled a radical, Dr. Benjamin Spock champions some pretty old-fashioned notions:

* Family should be a person's highest priority.

* Mothers should try to stay home with their children.

* Husbands and wives should work harder to resolve conflicts before splintering the family through divorce.

* Parents should control what their children watch on television.

* Parents should teach moral and spiritual values.

The erosion of such old-fashioned notions has created "multiple pressures that disturb parents these days," Dr. Spock said in a telephone interview from his Maine summer home.

Those pressures, Dr. Spock said, include divorce, excessive materialism and the isolation of urban life.

"We no longer have the comfort and security that comes from the extended family and the small, tightknit community," said Dr. Spock, 90, whose 1946 book "Baby and Child Care" revolutionized child-rearing in the United States.

In the late 1960s, Dr. Spock became better known for his protests against the Vietnam War than his baby book.

He led several protests against the bombing of North Vietnam and was convicted for conspiring to help men resist the draft. That conviction later was reversed.

Critics of Dr. Spock's anti-war activities labeled Dr. Spock the progenitor of parental permissiveness. That permissiveness -- encouraged by a book that recommended feeding infants when they were hungry instead of according to a rigid schedule -- was the cause of the era's youthful rebelliousness, critics charged.

The "permissive" label stuck, although even the most casual reading of Dr. Spock's books would dispel the notion. For example, one chapter in his 1974 book "Raising Children in a Difficult Time," is titled, "Child Psychology Can't Substitute for Morality."

In the introduction to the sixth edition of "Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care," released last year, Dr. Spock wrote: "I've always advised parents to respect their children but to remember to ask for respect for themselves, to give firm, clear leadership and to ask for cooperation and politeness."

And Dr. Spock isn't beyond occasionally advising the "because I said so" approach.

When discussing television viewing by children in his latest book, Dr. Spock writes: "I believe that parents should flatly forbid programs that go in for violence."

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