Monday, July 30, 2012

. . . but I know what I like.

To paraphrase a famous retort about art knowledge, "I don't know about child psychology but I know what I like (when it comes to raising kids.)

No, I've never actually heard that exact response but I have heard folk claim they don't give two hoots about what experts say about child rearing but they are quite sure how to do it. The opinion of the experts is held in such low esteem that the experts are not consulted nor given even a cursory reading. All this is not all that surprising considering that there is all too often a wall of misinformation surrounding experts and their opinions: Take B.F. Skinner.

The glass wall removed, Deborah enjoys her mother's touch.
Some years ago B. F. Skinner, of behavioral modification fame, wrote a utopia themed book titled Walden Two. I read Walden Two while staying with a far left leaning family in Berkeley, California, in the late '60s. A core theme of the fictional work was the controlled behavior modification of the community children.

A close friend, who was studying psychology, had made me aware of the Skinner box used in the training and testing of pigeons and lab rats. But, Skinner was famous for another box, one used in child rearing. This box is often known as the "Skinner baby tender."

Skinner put his daughter Deborah into a Skinner baby tender in her early years . . . an air-conditioned crib with see through walls. By Deborah's own account, her crib provided her a place to sleep and to remain warm without the rashes involved in being wrapped within numerous layers of clothes and blankets. Deborah slept in her novel crib until she was two and a half years old, and by all accounts grew up a happy, healthy, thriving child and is now a successful artist living in London.

Despite the success of Skinner's Air Crib, false and oh-so-nasty stories circulated about the baby tender, Deborah Skinner and her father. The most damning and most inaccurate stories were spread by author Lauren Slater in her 2004 book Opening Skinner's Box . . .

Deborah Skinner has a website where she talks a little about her childhood and the Air Crib. There are no bad memories. In fact, I believe her sister, Julie, used an Air Crib with both her daughters, Lisa and Justine.

Deborah Skinner also uses her site to showcase her art which can be purchased online. To view her horse drawings follow this link: Horses by Skinner. To view her landscapes click here: Landscapes by Skinner.

If you are interested in reading more about Deborah Skinner and her response to the error filled  stories shrouding her early childhood, read: I was not a Lab Rat.

There is a warning in this tale: Be cautious. Do not be too quick to believe what you read. Furthermore, do not be too quick to dismiss what you haven't read.

Addendum: I believe my wife, without knowing it, is using Skinner operant conditioning to toilet train our granddaughter. Whenever Fiona uses the potty she is rewarded with some M&Ms. Shades of the Skinner box and its food pellet rewards used to teach pigeons and rats to pull a lever, yes?


  1. You've hit on an issue that has plagued society since the dawn of time. The school system should better teach kids to get the whole story first. Then we have to get media to be less sensational and more truthful.

  2. Interesting how Deborah Skinner's landscape drawings seem to be drawn in a "box". Curious!