Dr. Laura's Cure for the Gimmes
The radio personality explains how her best-selling book teaches kids impulse control
How did you come up with the topic of "But I Waaannt It?"
Kids are gimme machines. It's not because they're evil. It's because as children, they do not have a perspective about money, about self-discipline, about charity. They don't have concepts like these. They're all about "I want to eat, I want to play, I want what I want."
They have to learn to be civilized, learn how not to indulge their every impulse, learn how to share, and how to care about somebody else. They have to learn the things that make them human beings.
Last time you worked with a writing collaborator; this time you did it alone. What was your writing process on this?
Titles come to me first. Then I power-walk--three miles, 50 minutes! I let my mind wrap around the title, and the storyline comes to me. Then I come home, sit down, and type. But it's not as if these are brand-new issues. These are things I've been dealing with on the air and when I was a therapist, not to mention in my own life. Then they all filter into the funnel of the moment.
And how did you address the issue in this book?
Well, the problem shows its ugly face when Mom take Sammy shopping for someone else--for her little niece who's having a birthday. Sammy can't see past his own desires and thinks if he had everything he wants, he'd be happy. Rather than arguing with him or screaming at him, Mom says, "Let's see if that's true." So she buys him a bunch of the dolls and they bring them home, and he's happy as a pig in mud.
But while Sammy's busy playing with all of these toys, Mr. Cat is lost under the bed. It seems he's not important anymore because Sammy has all these new toys. Pretty soon, Sammy realizes he can't sleep without Mr. Cat. He thought having all these toys would make him happy, but it was Mr. Cat who was there when he was sick, when he was scared, when he was having fun. Mr. Cat means something. Having a lot of new stuff only means you have a lot of new stuff. That's how Sammy learns the value of things that have meaning, as his mom explains it to him.
At the end of this book, she says, "What shall we do with all these toys?" and Sammy wonders if there are children who don't have a Mr. Cat. Mom says, "Yes, at the orphanage." So they drive there and give them all the new toys. That makes Sammy happy--giving them away. I think it's a wonderful lesson. I think we'll be having kids getting to the end of it and giving all their toys away!