The ODDity of Personal Responsibility

I was stunned as a mother explained her teenage son’s rebellious behavior. “He has O.D.D.” she said.  Thinking she had spoken in error, I said, “You mean O.C.D.–Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.”

“No,” she countered. “He has O.D.D.–Oppositional Deviant Disorder.”

Before I could catch myself, I blurted out, “Isn’t that a fancy name for rebellion?” The mother pushed back and defended her son’s deviant and sometimes abusive behavior. She continued, “I’m taking him to the doctor tomorrow so he can get some medication because I just can’t control him.” Behind her stood the boy’s older sister who vigorously shook her head and said, “Mom, he’s rebellious. He doesn’t need medication. He needs discipline.”

Okay. Now I’m going to tread where angels may fear to go and I’ll ask a couple of questions that angels may fear to ask: When did we become a society filled with “disorders” that are actually the results of people’s own behavior?What ever happened to taking personal responsibility instead of  medication? 

Please understand–I am not anti-medication. Some people legitimately need meds for their bodies, minds or emotions to function normally. Sometimes our systems are off-kilter and the only way back to normalcy is a doctor’s prescription. My issue is when medication becomes the substitute for lack of personal responsibility or absence of discipline.

When my brother was eight, he stole a small toy from the store. The manager caught him and gave him a choice: “Either you tell your parents or I will tell your parents for you.” Fortunately, my brother was innocent enough to run home and spill his guts to my mother. She was horrified. “No son of mine is going to steal, and I’ll make sure you never steal again.” And she did. After a sound spanking on his little tush, she marched him back to the store where he tearfully apologized to the manager and vowed never to do it again. (Today my brother says the spanking was a piece of cake compared to facing the manager with an apology.) What our mother accomplished in thirty minutes of discipline and learning has lasted a lifetime.

It’s a shame that parental authority, child discipline and apologies have been replaced with excuses, medication and labels that stick for a lifetime. I just find that a little O.D.D.–don’t you?