Expert John Rosemond Urges a Return to Common Sense Parenting
- 2010 20 Apr
John Rosemond's parenting philosophy focuses less on methods and more on principles.
Google "parenting advice" and more than 29 million hits come back. Amazon.com lists more than a 100,000 books on parenting. A recent Wall Street Journal column by Amy Henry bemoaned the glut of parenting information out there and wondered if parents have lost their confidence when it comes to parenting.
"We worship at the parenting tower of Babel," said child psychologist John Rosemond during a spring parent retreat in Gastonia, N.C. "All that so-called expert advice is destined to cause confusion in parents."
Rosemond, himself the author of nearly a dozen books on parenting, calls on today's parents to return to the parenting principles of an earlier generation. "I don't say anything new—I'm saying what used to be a given in parenting," he insisted. "Parenting common sense like our grandparents had has been smothered with the wet blanket of post-modern psychology parenting."
From Rosemond's perspective, the basic problem for today's parents is that "American parents have been brainwashed into trying parenting tips or strategies that don't work for longer than a few weeks. … We are not thinking properly as parents."
Parents today believe that parenting produces the child—the idea that if we simply follow the right set of rules or advice, our children will reach their full potential as adults. Rosemond considers that thinking backwards. "The child produces the child. Your upbringing does not dictate what you will become," he said. "The parent influences the child in a big way when the child is small and in a small way when the child is big."
"Rosemond's advice is centered around the parents having a strong bond together and that they should not cater to their child's every need," said Stan White of Savannah, Ga., who attended the conference. "I believe that it will make my child a better person. He will understand that the world doesn't revolve around him and he has no sense of entitlement."
Rosemond reminds parents that Ecclesiastes 3:1 ("There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven," NIV) can apply to parenting, too. He divides parenting into three seasons: season of service, season of discipline and season of mentoring.
Season one—the season of service—comprises the child's birth to 2 years old. "During this time, the mother functions as a servant to the child, anticipating, responding and doing for the child," said Rosemond.
Between the ages of 2 and 3, the mother should begin to make the significant transition between season one and season two. "The mother redefines herself to the child by firmly taking the child out of the center of attention and placing herself in the child's center," he explained.
Once that transition has taken place, season two begins: the decade of discipline, ages 3 to 13. "This is the most critical season," he said. "Your job as a parent is to provide leadership and authority to the child."
Rosemond acknowledged that the child will rebel against that but "your job is to present authority in a confident, calm and composed way so that the child wants to be like you."
"Part of season two is setting up boundaries with my child and giving my child responsibilities around the house. This hopefully will make him feel more of a part of the family," added White.
Season three—the season of mentoring—covers ages 13 to 18. The parents' job now is to help the child acquire the skills to successfully emancipate.
What has happened in America is that the "female parent is being frozen in season one with the husband as the child's best buddy," said Rosemond. He gave three things a mother must do to move from season one to season two successfully:
1) significantly lower the level of doing for the child;
2) build a boundary between self and child; and
3) reclaim her marriage in front of the child.
"Parenting has become bad for the mental health of the mother," he said. "Mothers are reaching for the ludicrously high bar of good motherly behavior that says a child is a reflection of the mother. … Women have allowed themselves to lose their identities, becoming two-dimensional cut-outs in their pursuit of clearing the mother bar."
"I have learned to remain calm yet assertive in dealing with my boys, ages 7 and 5," said Leigh Ann Martin of Roanoke, Va., who attended the parenting conference. "If my boys are defiant or ill-behaved, I don't take it personally and fret about it—I make it their problem not mine. I feel no guilt in doling out a punishment with real ‘staying power.' Basically, John's advice has alleviated me of much of the guilt I think we moms have taken on ourselves because we feel what our children do reflects on us."
Rosemond recommends that parents remember one simple rule: You may not always make perfect decisions but they will be better than the ones your child will make for himself. " Parents need to be proactive or you will be in a weak position. No discipline feels good at the time," he said, citing Hebrews 12:11 ("No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it" NIV).
Consequences Versus Feelings
One main point of departure between traditional parenting and post-modern psychological parenting is the application of consequences. "American parents are fooling around with consequences," said Rosemond. "When yesterday's child misbehaved, the child felt guilty. When today's child misbehaves, it's the mother who feels guilty."
That change in associated guilt can be traced to the pendulum swing from a focus on the child's behavior to a child's feelings. Rosemond contended that today's parents—particularly mothers—spend too much time talking to children about their feelings and much less time trying to discipline their children for misbehaving.
"Children need an outside agent to assist in feeling bad about misbehaving so that as an adult, they will feel bad about misbehaving on their own," he said.
"Rosemond's reminder to wait for the right opportunity to punish instead of punishing immediately was priceless for us," said Martin. "My husband looked at me and said, ‘Now that was worth the price of admission.'"
Marriage Trumps Child
Rosemond emphasizes a strong marriage is the best foundation for children. "When we lose that marriage, we lose something fundamental in child rearing," he said.
He bases this assertion on Genesis 2:24: "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh" (NIV). "We're not communicating this [marriage] unit to children anymore," he said.
"I love John Rosemond's parenting advice because it comes from a no-nonsense, common sense foundation," said Martin. "He does not advocate the idea that parents today need to be all things to their children at all times. He emphasizes the need for boundaries between parents and children, and maintains that the best thing parents can give their children is a happy and stable marriage—and that means time away from the kids. He actually gives us moms permission to tell the kids to go away and find something to do; that we do not have to be accessible to our children 24/7."
When the husband and wife spend more time in their husband and wife roles than they do in the mother/father roles, the children become more secure in their place within the family. "We should primarily raise a child as husband and wife, as [that marriage] unit, not as mother and father," said Rosemond.
April 26, 2010
Sarah Hamaker is a freelance writer and editor, and author of Hired @ Home: The Christian Mother's Guide to Working From Home. She lives in Fairfax, Va., with her husband and four children. Visit her at www.sarahhamaker.com.