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Psychologist John Rosemond advises parents to quit fawning over kids

| Monday, Nov. 12, 2012, 9:27 p.m.
Author and psychologist John Rosemond Submitted
Author and psychologist John Rosemond's new book — “Parent-Babble: How Parents Can Recover from Fifty Years of Bad Expert Advice.” Submitted

Forget most of the parenting advice you've heard during the past few decades. A lot of it is bunk, says bestselling author and psychologist John Rosemond.

In his new book — “Parent-Babble: How Parents Can Recover From Fifty Years of Bad Expert Advice” — Rosemond debunks what he calls several parenting myths that have been pervasive since the 1960s, and have grown worse over time. The Charlotte, N.C.-area author says that parents have been duped, and generations of kids are growing up with behavioral problems.

“I'm saying exactly that,” says Rosemond, whose syndicated column appears every Tuesday in the Tribune-Review. “The book, to a certain degree, is going to be regarded by people in my profession as something outrageous.

“I'm exposing the truth, and I'm hoping the American public realizes that this new parenting paradigm set forth in the late '60s and early '70s ... hasn't worked, and it's never going to work,” he says.

A key myth Rosemond addresses in his book is that parents should focus on helping their kid acquire high self-esteem. While kids should learn that they have value and worth, a focus on thinking highly of themselves can lead to self-centeredness, lack of concern for others and an inflated sense of their abilities, he says.

“To me, the healthiest view of oneself does not involve esteem of oneself,” Rosemond says. “The healthiest view ... offers the idea that whatever gifts one has been given, whatever challenge one has, are not to be used for self-promotion, but to be used to improve the lives of other people.

“The way to bring that out in children ... is to pay attention to other people, look for opportunities to help other people and train your children with a service mentality. This is the kind of mentality, to me, that strengthens culture.”

The negative consequences of parents who overly indulge their kids with an emphasis on high self-esteem, Rosemond says, can include lower school achievement, children who have difficulty controlling their emotions at later ages, and children who become bullies.

Sometimes, kids who are overconfident and have been told that everything they do is wonderful actually can fear failure and be less likely to take on challenges, says Rosemond, who cites studies and figures in his book to back up these statements. Children who are told that they have a talent that they really don't have can face a rude awakening, he says.

Take “American Idol” auditions, for instance. People who can't sing, but think they are brilliant singers, seem shocked and devastated when judges tell them otherwise.

Another big, erroneous parenting practice, Rosemond says, is behavioral modification: Using awards and punishments to manipulate behavior. This works with pets, but there's no evidence it works with human beings, he says.

In “Parent-Babble,” published in October by Andrews McMeel Publishing, Rosemond also discusses toilet training. Parents used to complete training by the time the child was 2, but now delay past what is healthy, he says.

He talks about the popular style of attachment parenting — a strong mother-child closeness that can include breast-feeding into toddlerhood — which Rosemond says can foster a crippling dependence in a young child and smother the mother.

“There's no indication whatsoever that this is producing superior children,” he says. “What I say to women is, you can have a child and still have a life. But if you choose attachment parenting, you will not have a life.”

Some might be surprised with Rosemond's parenting approach and find it to be draconian, he says. Some might call his style “old school,” but he wouldn't use that term.

“I'm a guy who believes there's nothing new under the sun,” Rosemond says. He has two adult kids and six grandchildren. “My signature is parenting with love and leadership. You love them a lot, and you provide them with a lot of good, competent leadership.”

How could the experts have gotten it so wrong with parenting advice? Their thoughts are opinions rather than facts, he says.

“Psychology is an intellectually arrogant profession,” Rosemond says. “We pretend to be scientists when, in fact, we would more accurately be called ideologues.

“This isn't about psychology — and coming from me, that means a lot,” he says. “It's simply about loving your children and providing leadership to them.”

Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at kgormly@tribweb.com or 412-320-7824.

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