Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Parenting Critic John Rosemond

In my post of 10/23/18, I reviewed Lukianoff and Haidt’s book, The Coddling of the American Mind. This book looks not only at political correctness as an impediment for finding truth in the universe, but what the authors see as a related issue: why the rates of depression, anxiety, drug abuse and suicide have been rapidly increasing in college-aged kids and others over the last few years.

They document the rise on campuses of efforts to “protect” students from “microaggressions” and the need for “safe spaces” and other such nonsense, assuming that exposure to other opinions and the occasional ethnocentric or racist comment, even offhandedly, is some sort of psychological trauma.

This seems to be the culmination of a major change in typical parenting styles that began in the 1970’s that has been brilliantly documented by psychologist and columnist John Rosemond. He discusses how parents now seem to treat their children as equals whose opinions on and feelings about everything are just as valid as those of adults, and are somehow not reactions to parents refusing to set appropriate limits with them. 

He believes, as I do, that the relationship between the parents should be the most important one in the house, not the relationship between either parent and a child (although of course the latter relationships sometimes have to take precedence). This has the effect of making children act out and actually feel worse about themselves, in addition to not taking other people’s rights and feelings into account as often as they should.

Basically, he is accusing such parents of being chronic enablers interfering with their child’s development of independence and responsibility. He takes a lot of heat for saying this, just as I do (to a much smaller degree since I have a much smaller audience). He is accused of “parent bashing.” When asked about this, he says he is indeed a parent basher and is proud of it.

He blames a lot of these parenting problems on advice from the mental health community as well as their invention of psychiatric pseudo-diseases. Even picky eating has been turned into a mental disorder  - Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID).

Rosemond is one of my heroes. He was kind enough to give me a positive blurb for my book on family dysfunction and mental disorders. He is the author of a quote I frequently steal from him, "Taking responsibility for something and self-blame are horses of two entirely different colors. The former is empowering; the latter is paralyzing."

I totally agree with the vast majority of his opinions.

Of course, there are some areas on which we don’t see eye to eye. He does not write about how cultural developments have led to a lot of the parenting changes of which he writes - e.g., the high prevalence of guilty yet angry parents due to the culture wars. IMO, the problematic changes are not just due to bad advice from the Dr. Spocks of the world. 

He over-generalizes about all psychiatric diagnoses not actually being diseases because they are not accompanied by clear-cut, easily-seen brain pathology. Actually, this is due to our limited knowledge of very complex brain circuitry. And he seems to think that screen time per se is more detrimental to young children than I might think it is, as I focus more on how any damage from too much screen time is more a reflection of what happens when parents do not set limits than it is of any direct effect. 

But no matter. The world needs more people like Dr. Rosemond.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Bringing up a Family Issue, and Parental Defensiveness Ensues

On Psychology Today, “Riles” commented on my blog post: "The Family Dynamics of Patients With Borderline Personality:"

Parents huh? This article is such bullcrap.  Its obvious this therapist does not work with BPD individuals...I am a parent to a BPD son, we have never mistreated or abused our son.  My son, as most BPD feel as though any disagreement even over trash day is emotionally or verbally abusive to them...A 5 minute question session just to ask about their day in their mind eventually gets spewed as a 2 hour session of us yelling at him.  Its such crap that you put this out there blaming parents who are doing everything in their power to understand this disorder and help their children.

This sort of reaction is representative of the fact that bringing up family issues involved in creating BPD is dangerous for their adult children - as well as a minefield for people like myself writing about the situation. Yes, it is true that many parents of BPD offspring are not overtly abusive, as I have often mentioned.

However, let’s look closer at this comment. Let’s assume for the moment that it is an accurate description of what goes on in this family (of course, I have no way of knowing whether it is or is not). I would wonder how old the son was when these two-hour yelling sessions began. Clearly, their son is provoking them, but that is part of the dynamics in families that generate BPD. Spoilers make parents angry when they are too guilty, but then have to make them feel guilty if they start to get too angry.

I would advise these parents to ask themselves, if they can calm down long enough to look at the interactional patterns with their son somewhat dispassionately and honestly, why they continue to engage with their son for two whole hours when he starts to act like this. Chances are, this signals the son to continue doing whatever it is that he had been doing. If the parents say they don’t know how to put a stop to their son’s difficult reactions and/or disengage from him, I would suggest that they watch a few episodes of Supernanny or read a book by parenting advisor John Rosemond. I would also have to warn them that if they follow the advice, their son’s behavior will get worse at first - but then get much better.

Can “How was your day” be a loaded question in these families? Damn right it can. If the parents are usually over-involved (the Buttinsky bunch) or under-involved (the Alfred E. Neuman what-me-worry bunch), or even worse, if the parents vacillate between these two extremes, their asking about their son’s day would for him be an incredibly infuriating entrance to this pattern of interactions.