Tuesday, August 21st, 2018
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Columns: June 2018

John Rosemond June 2018 Columns

Copyright 2017, John K. Rosemond

Respect for Adults Is Good for Kids' Mental Health

Rates of child and teen depression and suicide continue to rise, as they have for fifty years. As regular readers of this column know, I do not agree in the least with current explanations, much less the “treatments” based on them, proposed by the mainstream in the mental health professions. For the past year, on my weekly radio program (American Family Radio) I have challenged anyone in the mental health field to provide irrefutable evidence that the concept of a so-called “biochemical imbalance” is provable. Crickets. Same with my ongoing challenge to the efficacy of current treatment approaches, including expensive drugs that don’t reliably outperform placebos (but, unlike placebos, involve the risk of dangerous side-effects).

The question, then, becomes: If I don’t think that child and teen depression is becoming epidemic because of genes, biochemical imbalances, and “brain differences,” what is my explanation? Do I have one or am I merely a contrarian?

Yes and no. My non-materialistic explanation is quite simple: The rise of child and teen depression since the 1960s is the inevitable corollary of a corresponding decline in respect for parents and other adult authority figures – one’s elders in general – that began developing among America’s youth during that very deconstructive decade.

It must be noted, with emphasis, that whether children develop respect for their parents and adult authority in general is entirely – as in 100 percent – up to adults. I am proposing, therefore, that respect for authority among America’s youth has eroded because where children are concerned, many if not most adults no longer possess respect for their own authority. As a grandmother once asked me, “How is it that my 30-something year-old daughter has no problem telling adults who work under her what to do but takes orders from my 7-year-old grandson?”

Children NEED to respect adults, beginning with their parents. That requires adults who recognize that need and step unabashedly up to the plate when it comes to the attendant responsibility. Adult authority anchors a child’s sense of well-being in a world that is otherwise fraught with danger on every side. Adult authority is the antidote to unpredictability. Its meta-message is, “You have nothing to worry about because I am taking care of essential business in your life until you can take care of it for yourself.”

The problem began when, in the 1960s, progressives began demonizing all forms of traditional authority – in the military, church, workplace, classroom, and, most significantly, in the family. Mental health professionals rose up in one voice to proclaim that traditional parent authority wreaked havoc on the young psyche. This fiction was the centerpiece of their campaign for the so-called “democratic” family. “Because I said so” – which is mere affirmation of the legitimacy of the authority of the adult in question – was replaced with “What do you think, honey?” And the snowball began rolling downhill.

The paradox is that giving children power in their relationships with adults weakens rather than strengthens them. As it erodes their sense of security, it increases their sense of vulnerability. As the feeling that adults can’t be relied upon (i.e., a sense of helplessness) grows, so does resentment and lack of respect. Defiance of adult authority is intoxicating to a child, but like all intoxicants, it is ultimately self-destructive.

Almost without exception, parents who describe depressed teens describe belligerent, disrespectful teens. Likewise, when these parents – those of them who can straighten their backbones, that is – begin to calmly and purposefully reclaim their natural authority, their kids begin to get better.

Respect for adult authority on the part of a child is a good thing for his or her parents, but it’s an even better thing for the child.

15-Year-Old Daughter Should Not Get Private Time With 20-Year-Old Boyfriend

Q: Our 15-year-old daughter has told us she’s in love with a 20-year-old guy who is in the Army and intending to make the Army his career. We’ve met him, and he is extremely respectful and well-mannered, and has told us he’s in love with her. We’ve made it clear to both of them that for the time being at least, they may meet in our home, when we are home, and nowhere else. He is fine with that, he says, and seems sincere. Our daughter, however, is not fine with that. She wants the freedom to see him whenever and wherever. She says we don’t trust her which is only half-true. Even though he says he doesn’t want physical intimacy until he’s married, we know from personal experience how easy it is for young people to get carried away. Her emotionality over this (along with the fact that we actually like him) is causing us to think that perhaps we should allow some meetings away from our home. What are your thoughts?

A: I don’t have thoughts about this issue; having a daughter who was once a teenager, I have but one thought: NO!

Full disclosure: I am very old-fashioned about most things male and female. I do not think teens should be allowed to date until both are sixteen, for example. Why sixteen? I have no defensible reason, actually. Sixteen just seems like a good, albeit admittedly arbitrary, number. Furthermore, if I was doing the dad thing today, any male courting my daughter would first have to come to our home several times where they could watch television together or something equally exciting (not to mention he would be required to have a long and rather purposefully intimidating conversation with me about matters of life and death) before he’d be allowed to see my daughter without adult supervision. Then I’d set, at least initially, a curfew of 10:00 PM on non-school nights. There would be no curfew on school nights because they wouldn’t be seeing one another on non-school nights. And so on. In short, I would be Daddy De Infierno, and proud of it.

It’s one thing when both parties are about the same age; it’s quite another when one is a dependent child (who has not reached the age of consent) and the other is an adult. The fact that he intends to make the Army a career is certainly in his favor, but it can also be used to everyone’s advantage. Specifically, you might consider mentioning to your daughter’s suitor that if he initiates or participates in any problem behavior with her – or you even THINK he has done so – that you will make a visit to his commanding officer. That should virtually guarantee good behavior, assuming he is truly serious about making a career of military service.

Having said all that, I’ve known or known of a good number of older married folks who began dating when one was a young adult and the other a minor. In and of itself, the situation is not a recipe for certain disaster, although it often ends up that way. And by the way, based on the conversations I’ve had with these folks, I’m reasonably sure they would agree with the safeguards I recommend.

These days, when I have the opportunity to advise a young woman concerning marriage, I always advise that she marry a somewhat older guy who is verifiably responsible, mature, and is not living with his parents (or in digs they have provided). Since that describes the fellow in question, I’d be inclined to restrict but not stand in the way of a relationship.

Need I say I believe in the old “ounce of prevention”?

Adults, Children Must Maintain Relationship Boundaries

A column of mine that originally appeared in January of 2017 has been circulating on the Internet ever since, accumulating over a million hits to date. In a nutshell, its message is simply that parents, not children, are the most important people in a family and the husband-wife relationship should greatly “trump” that between either parent and the kids. In other words, mom and dad are secondary roles. Spouse should rule, in both directions.

That is likely disorienting to most folks who are raising children today, but neither of those propositions is regarded as radical by people over age sixty – folks who were raised prior to the onset of the psychological parenting revolution that has throttled the functionality of the American Family since the early 1970s. Individuals in that demographic don’t need a college education to see that the primacy of the parent-child relationship in today’s typical family is what’s causing most if not all of any given family’s problems, and especially those involving child discipline.

How, pray tell, can one successfully discipline someone else – irrespective of that someone’s age – while at the same time be focused primarily on having a “wonderful relationship”? Answer: There is no “how.” It is an impossible proposition. Effective leadership is cancelled by the attempt to have “wonderful relationship.” When relationship priorities are properly ordered in a family, the discipline (leadership) of children is relatively simple and painless for all concerned.

The column in question has generated lots of comment – pro and con (as usual, I am some variety of monster to parenting progressives) – and questions. One such question was recently posed to me by a single mom in the beautiful state of Kentucky: “How does your advice apply to the man I’m dating and my relationship with him?”

Given that my mother was single for most of my first seven years, I am eminently qualified to answer: to wit, as regards a single parent, the same principle and priorities apply, actually. Children of divorce should know that whereas they are loved and will always be adequately protected and provided for, both parents’ primary relationships are with other adults, not them. Likewise, children – regardless of their parents’ marital status – should be in primary relationship with other children.

Adult-child relationship boundaries are maintained for the benefit of all concerned. Adults are diminished, especially concerning their authority, when they strive to be friends with children (not friendly, mind you, but friends with). Children, furthermore, fail to develop proper respect for adults who are striving to be liked, and as I said in a recent column, child mental health is inextricably tied to respect for adults.

That respect should encompass any and all adults who are identified by a child’s parent or parents as responsible and morally upright, and with that respect should come obedience (because, in this context, the adult in question is not going to give inappropriate instructions to a child). So, to the question at hand, if a responsible, morally upright boyfriend gives a child an instruction, the child should obey.

It should, at this point, be somewhat needless to say, but the same applies to a stepparent. To be clear, a stepparent’s authority over children should be regarded as COMPLETELY EQUAL IN ALL RESPECTS to a biological/adoptive parent’s authority. When a stepparent is a second-class citizen, there’s trouble in the future, for sure. “You’re not my mom/dad, so I don’t have to do what you say,” just doesn’t cut it.

One final word: Parents, you do not want your children thinking that it is somehow “cool” to have an adult friend. Adult-child friendships are ALWAYS the result of adults who invite children into relationship with them. That renders a child vulnerable, and that vulnerability should not be fostered in the home, period.


Parents, Stop Trying to Referee Kids' Fights

Q: We have a boy, 6, and a girl, 9, who fight constantly about everything under the sun. My husband and I have a good marriage. We hardly ever have a serious disagreement about anything, so it’s hard for us to understand what has led to our kids’ inability to get along. In any case, their fighting has become very draining, especially to me because I homeschool and am with the children much more than is my husband. When they fight, I generally try to figure out which of them was in the wrong and make him or her apologize. My husband thinks that’s not helping. I just think it’s good practice. What do you think?

A: A much wiser man than I once said, “Forced apologies are morally meaningless.” Obviously, the shoe fits. In your situation, does the child who apologizes truly think he or she was in the wrong? No. When siblings have conflict, each of them thinks he/she has been the victim of some insult or offense from the other. It takes much more maturity and wisdom than is possessed by 6- and 9-year-old children to see things from another person’s point of view. Is the apology, therefore, sincere? No. I suppose an argument could be made that it is “good practice,” but that’s idealistic thinking. The fact is that these forced apologies are probably making matters worse.

What has led to your children’s inability to get along is their innate self-centeredness. You and your husband have obviously modeled what a properly loving relationship looks (and sounds) like. But as I’ve pointed out many times in this column and elsewhere, parenting is not deterministic. That is the Freudian myth. As parents of prior generations understood, “every child has a mind of his own.” Good parenting does not guarantee a good outcome (and vice versa). Neither of your children are interested in a good relationship. They each want their own way. You and your husband want a good relationship. Each of you is willing to sacrifice self-interest to that end. It will be more than a few years before your kids are able to do the same – to put relationship above self - with one another or anyone else.

When parents “referee” sibling conflicts, things always go from bad to worse. Concerning any given conflict situation, the sibling identified as the villain seeks to “even the score,” and the sibling identified as the victim seeks to make yet another score. Mind you, the role of victim is addictive. It seeks constant satisfaction. Under the circumstances, the villain-victim paradigm is akin to a snowball rolling downhill and eventually becoming an avalanche.

For this reason, I nearly always recommend that parents not engage in trying to determine who did “it,” who did what to whom, who said what, who looked at the other sibling a certain way, etc. Hold both children equally accountable for disrupting the peace of the household. The first disruption of any given day earns both kids an hour in their respective rooms (or separate rooms if they share space). That’s the warning shot. The second infraction earns them confinement for the remainder of the day – without electronic entertainment of any sort – and early bedtime.

In my experience, consistent enforcement of this consequence-based program will begin to show good results within a couple of weeks and cure within a couple of months (albeit occasional enforcement may still be necessary for up to six months). The key is dispassion on your part. The emotional consequences of the problem must belong to the children, and to the children alone.

That, in fact, is a universal disciplinary principle.

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