It all started when little Jake was one month old. He quickly learned
that boisterous wails would cause his grandmother, Betsy, to rush to his
crib. He was well on his way to becoming a little dictator.
Betsy, being a kind-hearted and compassionate woman, felt sorry for the boy
because he had no father or mother to speak of. Betsy would perform on
command every time the child uttered a whimper.
Her doctor suggested that
she let the boy cry. He further explained that, in time, the child would
get the hint that no one would be coming at his every whim.
Jake’s rein of terror would have ended if his grandmother had taken her
doctor’s advice, but she ignored the suggestion. The effect was
predictable: soon, Betsy was suffering from exhaustion.
Is it any surprise that, by the time Jake reached his first birthday, his
first word was no? Jake, please don’t throw your toys, his grandmother
would plead sweetly. No! was Jake’s reply as he hurled a hard plastic
ball at Granny.
Eat your cereal, his Granny would say. With a sweep of
his little hand, Jake knocked the cereal bowl to the floor while he
bellowed another No!. All right, Jake, Granny replied, If you don’t
like the cereal, I’ll fix you something else. Filled with hope, she
mistakenly thought the boy would outgrow this behavior.
By the time he was five years old, Jake did not hesitate to throw very
public tantrums. He once sprawled out on the department store floor,
kicking and screaming because he had been denied a toy he wanted.
Embarrassed by his behavior, Betsy quickly placed the toy in the shopping
cart and proceeded through the checkout line. When they arrived at home,
Betsy informed Jake that his behavior had been inappropriate. We don’t act
like that in public, she explained. I am certain that the boy was
thinking, Why not? It works.
When Jake was ten, Granny warned him that if he did not do his homework he
would not be allowed to go camping with his friends the following month.
Jake promised to do his homework, but a phone call from the school
confirmed that he had not turned in a single homework assignment during the
After a mild scolding, the lad made a half-hearted attempt
to finish his assignments. He complained that the work was too hard, and
that he didn’t understand the material.
Grateful for the meager crumbs that Jake offered, Granny began to help him
with his homework, often doing most of it herself. Soon the time came for
the camping trip. Wearing a halo and a pasted-on smile, Jake asked in his
most angelic voice whether he could go. Granny consented.
She was afraid
that the boy would revert back to zero homework performance if she
disallowed this outing.
At twelve, Jake had completed the last three years of his schooling by
attending summer school. Every morning, Granny begged him to get up for
school, but Jake lingered until he missed the school bus. Granny then
dutifully drove him to school so that he would not be late. Of course, the
cafeteria food was not good enough for him, so Jake was handed a ten dollar
bill each morning to purchase two hoagies and a large soft drink at the
local convenience store.
By the time Jake turned fourteen, he was roaming the streets with his
friends every night past curfew.
Demanding to wear the latest and most
expensive fashion, he got what he wanted. Jake was denied nothing by his
grandmother. Smoking cigarettes, getting drunk, and mouthing off to Granny
in the most foul language had become a way of life for Jake.
Finally acknowledging that Jake was well on his way to becoming a
juvenile delinquent, Betsy decided to take him to a psychologist. Despite
paying thousands of dollars towards the cause, she could discern no
positive changes. The psychologist diagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder,
which now gave Jake a handy excuse for his inappropriate behavior.
Soon, Betsy was on the phone with her oldest son, Dennis. She complained
that Jake would not listen to her. She cried, wondering where she had gone
wrong. After two years of phone calls and letters to her son and
daughter-in-law, Betsy .