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.


  1. But the question is which poison is worse: parents whose #1 priority in child-rearing is that they are friends with their kids, or parents whose #1 priority is to be in charge but are acting out and projecting a plethora of emotional pathologies.

    1. Usually the second, but it all depends on how everything plays out. Details matter.

  2. Be fair about “cultural” changes. Our economy has changed. Feminism didn’t cause & doesn’t require loss in real wages. It was once a given that most kids would do as well as their parents. With effort & reasonable investment, they’d do better.

    1. Yes, I know. In fact, the point I make is that it is the parental guilt that causes the problems, not the fact that the parents are both working.

      I grew up in Southern California in the pre-feminist 1950's, where my Mom's attitude was "It's a nice day out, go out and play!" It was always a nice day. (In other words, get lost). We didn't have parents trying to cater to us. At all.