John Rosemond March 2019 Columns
Copyright 2019, John K. Rosemond
You Can't Win 'Em All
I’ve been writing this column for forty-three years and speaking publicly for nearly as long. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that when it comes to my subject matter, you can’t win ‘em all.
What is now called “parenting” has become a highly emotional subject for many, right up there with religion, politics, and pit bulls. Early on in my career, it puzzled me when people became bent completely out of shape, taken over by emotion, over something I said. People storming out of my presentations was common. On three occasions, people stood up in the middle of talks and began shouting at me. Twice, sponsors had to hire security because of threatened group disruptions.
That sort of stuff has long ceased to puzzle me. Besides, it happens very rarely these days, primarily because most of the folks who come to my presentations know what to expect: to wit, psychological heresy. But, “rarely” is the operative word. After a recent talk in California, a woman cornered me and began berating me for putting too much emphasis on the need for proper discipline.
“You need to tell people to love their children!” she nearly shouted, fighting off tears, before marching angrily away. It is relevant and only fair to note that she had identified herself as an abused child. (It is also only fair to note that I had told my audience, as always, that unconditional love is no less important to proper childrearing than unequivocal authority.)
Had she stuck around, and had she been able to hear me with some degree of objectivity, I would have told her that there’s not much point in telling parents to love their children. Let’s face it, a parent is either going to give up his seat in a lifeboat to his child or he is not, and me saying, “You should give up your seat in a lifeboat…” is not going to make any difference. Furthermore, the human capacity for self-deception is pertinent. A person who says (and even believes) he is so willing may, when push comes to shove, leave his child to sink or swim.
The second relevant consideration here is the fact that people who do not love their children are not in my audiences, nor are they likely readers of this column. My sponsors frequently lament that the parents who most need to hear me didn’t show up.
Third, people who don’t possess genuine, self-sacrificial love for their children don’t always know who they are. Their next-door neighbors and next-of-kin may not know who they are either. Some of said folks do the right thing where their kids are concerned, but lack depth of feeling. They’re just going through the motions, for which we should all be grateful.
Fourth, even people who genuinely, self-sacrificially love their children do unloving things. They may have screamed at their children or spanked in a rage. “Unloving things” can and does even include things many if not most other parents are doing. For example, loving parents may drag their children around to one after-school activity after another, depriving their kids of discretionary time (which ought to occupy a significant slice of a child’s life). Or they may defend their kids when they get into trouble in school, undermining their kids’ respect for adults. They may solve every problem their kids encounter, depriving their kids of responsibility and emotional resilience. A loving act is not defined by good intentions.
The converse of loving parents doing unloving things is that loving acts do not necessarily appear to be or feel loving at the time. For example, children do not like being disciplined, but the fact that a child does not like what a parent has done does not define the act as unloving. I’ve said it before, but it can’t be said enough (for today’s parents): Children don’t know what they need; they only know what they want.
Come to think of it, there are no small number (these days) of adults who fit that description.
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A Proven Solution to 5-Year-Old’s Eating ‘Issues’
Q: My 5-year-old has had eating issues since he was an infant. When I introduced solid food at six months, he began rejecting most vegetables. His feeding problems have worsened since then to the point, today, where he will eat only breaded chicken strips, Tater Tots, and vanilla ice cream (but only a certain brand). We worked with a feeding therapist for about six months but made no appreciable progress. She said he has a form of sensory integration disorder, which she explained as his brain is wired such that foods don’t taste to him the way they taste to most people. So, even certain sweet foods taste bitter to him, for example, and he will gag and even throw up at the mere sight of them. In addition, he reacts negatively to certain textures. My mom says I was a picky eater, so he apparently inherited a tendency in this direction from me. I’m grasping at straws here, but do you have any suggestions?
A: First, you need to know that there is zero confirmable evidence with which to back up the claims made by the occupational therapist. She cannot prove her contention that the “wiring” between your son’s taste buds and his brain is abnormal, nor can she can’t prove he inherited some “tendency” from you (contrary to popular belief, no one has proven that “tendencies” are inherited). What the OT told you is typical of the pseudo-scientific babble dispensed by professionals who can’t see outside the boundaries of the medical model they were taught in graduate school.
My very simple belief is that most if not all childhood behavior “disorders” are nothing more than long-standing bad habits. In some cases, it’s relatively easy to figure out how these habits developed while in other cases, it’s anyone’s best guess. At some point in the development of a certain bad habit, the child in question intuits (i.e. he cannot explain his thought process) that the behavior in question – in this case, refusing to eat certain foods – is a means by which he can control other people, cause them to treat him as a special case.
Over the course of my career, I’ve been consulted by dozens of parents about “feeding issues.” When parents cooperate and follow through as prescribed, my approach has never failed. It’s based on the commonsense notion that children will do what is to their advantage and, conversely, stop doing what is no longer to their advantage.
For example, I once had parents tell their preschool-age son that his picky eating (after six months in a feeding therapy program he was eating about five foods) was due to a lack of adequate sleep – that when a child doesn’t get enough sleep, taste buds stop working properly and food tastes weird. In other words, I had them begin their son’s “therapy” by redefining the problem in terms a young child could understand.
The solution became obvious: When he was unable to eat the food put on his plate at the evening meal (one teaspoon portions of what everyone else was eating), it simply meant he needed to catch up on his sleep. In that event, he was excused from the table and went to bed, lights out, curtains drawn. He did not like that, not one bit (pun!).
In less than a week, his repertoire of acceptable foods went from five to fifteen. The last time I checked, he was eating anything his parents put on his plate and usually asking for seconds. Mind you, a few nights of early bedtime “therapy” accomplished more than six months in a feeding therapy program where he received attention and concern for acting like his tongue and brain weren’t properly connected.
Commonsense trumps pseudo-science once again!
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On Attachment Parenting
“So, what do you think of attachment parenting?
My inquisitor was a 30-something mom. I sensed she was testing me, trying to determine whether I was worth her time.
“Not much,” I said. “I don’t see any objective research that would verify any short- or long-term benefits; therefore, I don’t think the effort – on the part of the mother, primarily if not exclusively – pays off.”
“Well, I disagree,” she replied. “I practice attachment parenting and I see lots of benefit.”
“Uh…to both me and my child.”
“How many kids do you have?”
“He’s my first.”
“So you have no control group or other point of comparison.”
“Maybe not,” she said, bristling, “but I have a right to raise my child any way I choose.”
“Actually, no, you don’t.”
“Well, isn’t that narrow-minded of you!” At which she stormed off.
Yes, it is narrow-minded of me. If one’s thinking doesn’t “narrow” as one grows older, then one is simply not paying attention, much less truly growing.
Anyone who thinks they are entitled to raise a child any way they choose is wrong. In the raising of a child, one has an obligation to one’s neighbors, broadly defined. That obligation over-rides one’s obligation to one’s child, in fact. Furthermore, the parent who understands and practices what I just said is going to do a much, much better job than the parent who believes his or her child is the beginning and end of their obligation. The child who learns, early on, that he is not worthy of being the center of attention, that the world does not revolve around him, is going to be a much happier camper than the child who is caused to believe otherwise.
Another way of saying the same thing: Esteem of self – once known as pride – makes only ONE person’s world go around. Humility – a willingness to serve others, no matter the inconvenience – is what glues culture together. Humbleness also makes for the highest level of personal satisfaction. For those reasons, the highest of all child-rearing goals is to raise a humble child. There are not multiple, equally viable ways of accomplishing that. There is one. Therefore, there is one proper way to raise a child and the Almighty YOU do not have a “right” – self-conferred, of course – to raise YOUR child any old way YOU choose. That is narcissism, plainly speaking. It could be argued that one has a right to be a narcissist, but if so, the right ends when one’s self-absorption impacts another person. The only functional narcissist is a hermit.
Attachment parenting is the latest postmodern parenting aberration. Women who have practiced it and then escaped its cult-like grip attest that there is no way a child so idolized can draw any conclusion other than that his needs surpass everyone else’s. It is HUMANism pushed to a pathological extreme, the epitome of not understanding that the proper raising of a child is an act of love for one’s neighbors.
It’s quite simple, actually: By keeping one’s obligation to one’s neighbors uppermost in mind, one will do the very best job of raising a child. When said child finally realizes why he’s so happy, he will not be able to thank you enough.
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