Thoughts About John Rosemond’s Old School Approach
(Short Version of Chuck’s Idea Letter #10)
I’ve been reading an interesting book by John Rosemond called The New Six-Point Plan for Raising Happy, Healthy, Children. He’s a psychologist who has been around a while, says he doesn’t believe in psychology, has done a lot of work with parents, writes a nationally syndicated column on parenting, and has published 12 books on parenting, including: Because I Said So!, Parent Power: A Common-Sense Approach to Parenting in the 90’s and Beyond, John Rosemond’s New Parent Power and Teen-Proofing.
I find him challenging because he’s very articulate, obviously very experienced, very creative, and whole-heartedly committed to Old School parenting methods. He maintains that they are the best possible approach to parenting, with many examples of behavioral interventions for parents to “solve” behavior problems their kids are presenting.
The Six-Point Plan
Rosemond’s six-point plan might appeal to many of you, especially if you have trouble with some of my New School ideas. Here are the chapter headings of his six-point plan: 1) The Parent-Centered Family; 2) The Voice of Authority; 3) The Roots of Responsibility; 4) The Fruits of Frustration (the child’s frustration–CA); 5) Toys and Play–The Right Stuff; and 6) Television, Computers, and Video Games–More Than Meets the Eye. He adds a seventh point, which is Love ‘Em Enough to Do the First Six! He also presents, in an afterword, Rosemond’s Bill of Rights for Children, which are, essentially, that children have the right to be bossed around by their parents.
The Delusion of Control
Rosemond approaches behavior control of children the way most Old Schoolers do: parents need to be in charge, and this means controlling their children’s behavior. For example, he says, “When previously inconsistent parents finally take control away from a misbehaving child, that child experiences an immense sense of relief and security. The trick to never having to wrestle control away from a misbehaving child is to expect obedience in the first place.” (p. 85)
Rosemond’s methods operate under the single most common mistake that characterizes the Old School approach, and that is the “delusion of control,” meaning the idea that parents can–or should–control their children’s behavior. I consider this a “belief falsely held” (Merriam-Webster’s definition of delusion.)
The problem as I see it is this: expecting obedience is what often invites child disobedience. Expecting obedience and relying on power and control tactics (as opposed to expecting cooperation based on respect and two-way dialogue) too often invites resistance and power struggles. The parent’s main resource is then “get tough” tactics that rely on threats of punishment as a means of overpowering the child into submission.
Parents as Benevolent Dictators
In his chapter on discipline (The Voice of Authority), Rosemond touts the value of the parent(s) as “benevolent dictator(s).” The family is not a democracy. The parents are always and clearly in charge. They are the boss. They make the rules. They expect and demand obedience. They enforce the rules through punishment for misbehavior and disobedience. “Because I said so!” is their motto and standard.
Parents should always be guided by decisiveness and consistency in a loving, nurturing parent-child relationship, Rosemond says, and this is more important than trying to always be “right” in their decisions about their children. “A child’s sense of security is founded upon parental love and authority, and parents’ indecisiveness causes children to feel insecure. That insecurity is likely to be expressed in the form of behavior problems. Do you see? The more you try to avoid making mistakes that could cause problems, the more problems you cause” (p. 114). I like these ideas. It’s just I that recommend that parents use their authority somewhat differently than he suggests.
Children will do well under different systems of parenting, depending on their personality and temperament, and as long as thire parents are strong, clear, consistent, and decisive. John Rosemond’s Old School approach overemphasizes parental authority and child obedience, at the expense of open parent-child dialogue and shared decision making. I think New School approaches are better suited to today’s complex society and to addressing the needs of today’s savvy, autonomous, well-connected, and oftentimes overdefiant kids, who often appear to be on a mission to prove to their parents (and teachers) that they cannot–and will not–be controlled.
(For a more complete review of this book, please see the longer version of this article by the same title under the “Other Authors” category of this site.)
3 Steps to Parent-Child Harmony is my book that describes in detail the differences between the Old School Parenting model and the New School Parenting model. Please see these links if you are interested in more information or wish to purchase.