Columnist: Behavior modification scams — the result of frustration with our children

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 17, 2015

By Glenn Dowell

Contributing columnist

The word is out. Parents who can afford it are shopping around the world for a unique type of school to send their child.

The schools they are looking for are not necessarily known for their special academic programs. These schools are not even known for having the best sports programs.

The parents are shopping for schools which are becoming known as behavior modifications schools, which since 2003 have been cropping up in places like Mexico and other Latin American countries. A few such schools are known to exist even in the United States but tend to run afoul of American laws. In this country, for instance, behavior modification programs and boarding schools for troubled youths have faced increasing legal and licensing challenges over the past several years.

Check the Internet and it appears as if there is a proliferation of these schools which influence parents into believing that they can turn their child into an adorable darling if they could only afford around $30,000 per year. In essence, the behavior modification schools lure parents in by slick advertisement, which tend to exaggerate their power to transform their child from a family’s terror to a child that is compliant and well-behaved.

Sounds incredulous? Maybe not. It is not uncommon to hear parents say that they wish something could be done to make their child more palatable. Some even complain that there are more dangers and heartaches associated with parenting today.

Speak to most parents today, in fact, and they will tell you of some friend who is experiencing a nightmare in attempting to get their child to respect authority. Someone recently said to me that with this generation of kids, the adage “blood is thicker than water,” is simply overrated.

These kids, he went on to say, do not have a sense of bonding or family. He truly believed that many of them, as they get older, would rather be anywhere else other than with their own family.

When I was a child, children were expected to be seen and not heard when adults were engaged in conversation. This generation of kids appear to believe that most adults do not have anything to say worth listening to. It seems that to get a message across to today’s generation, it must be done in the form of entertainment.

Think I am teasing?

Check out the churches. The most popular spiritual song in the African-American church a few years ago was a rap type song titled “Stomp,” by Kirk Franklin. The kids loved it and many pastors extolled the values of the music by saying essentially, any means necessary to get the kids in their church doors.

From my perspective, the song was saying even God loves rap music. Did the song cause more children to believe in God? I do not think so. The song was merely for entertainment purposes.

Look at any advertisement over the next few days and you will find some child being disrespectful to their parents. My favorite one was an anti-smoking commercial where a teenager, holding his younger brother, chastises his parents about the dangers of second-hand smoke saying, “I can leave the room when you smoke, my younger brother cannot.”

The message was clear and he was right, but in reality, had I said something similar to my parents, I would have been trying to pick myself off the floor. The question is, could sponsors of the message have presented it in another manner that would have been just as effective?

If I had to identify the single source for problems parents are facing in raising children, I would have to say that it is the media messages which are delivered into our homes on a daily basis. I challenge you to watch one television program over the next week which delivers the message that it is OK and cool to love your parents.

Yes, many of our children are, indeed, in need of some type of behavior modification. When I first heard of the behavior modification schools for unruly youths, I thought, how awful! Now, I am ambivalent.

If you live on the planet earth, you understand that there are some bad and irresponsible parents. I am not so inclined, however, to blame parents entirely for the havoc too many of our children are causing in our country. Our children need something which can positively impact their soul, not something that can conceivably leave them void of a conscience.

The behavior modification programs are a good concept, but the sad reality of these programs is that depositing a child in such a program may just exacerbate, rather than solve the problems we are experiencing with our youth.

The fact of the matter is that it does not take a behavior modification program to learn that most parents are, indeed, cool.

Glenn Dowell is an author and LaGrange native who currently lives in Jonesboro. He may be reached at