Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Reading Journal: John Rosemond
This was a book I desperately needed. Amusingly, halfway through greedily lapping up the contents of this book, I realized it was written by the same guy who writes the syndicated "Affirmative Parenting" column that I despised during the years it ran in The Post Register. Curses. However, despite leaning a little heavily on "why, when I was a boy"- type rhetoric and making an occasional outrageous statement like "parents should always spank in anger," Rosemond makes some excellent points regarding effective parenting. Here are his main ideas:
1. Don't put your kids first.
I know. It sounds all wrong, but it's totally right. This was the BIG message I needed to get from this book. Rosemond writes, "Your average American working mom takes the concept of 'quality time' to mean that she's obliged to spend every free moment giving her children large, compensatory doses of positive attention. After picking up the children from the day-care center, she goes home and flogs herself with the quality time whip until it's time for the children to go to bed." (Can you see the flashing arrows pointing enthusiastically at my head?) Rosemond argues that this attitude gives children a very self-centered worldview that will develop into a very irritating entitlement problem later in life.
Obviously you need to ensure that your children's needs are met, that you are engaging in their lives and that they know that you love them, but it's ESSENTIAL for their well-being (and yours!) that they learn to respect your separateness and personhood as well.
This is the NUMERO UNO thing I need to work on with my kiddos.
2. Expect your kids to obey.
Rosemond provides an amusing description of what a basketball game would be like if the referee acted like most American parents. When a player fouls someone, the referee stops the play, nags, whines, shouts, tears out his hair, threatens, gives second chances, etc. Obviously, this is less effective, and the players are going to start breaking every rule they can.
Rosemond argues that effective parents should do the same. Children should know the rules and should experience immediate, reasonable, and consistent consequences for violating them. Otherwise, they'll waste a lot of their developmental energy on constantly testing limits.
Yup, this is another thing I need to work on.
3. Teach your kids responsibility.
If they can do something for themselves, make them do it for themselves. If they are capable of helping out around the house, assign them responsibilities that ensure that they're playing an important role in the family's overall well-being.
4. Say "no."
And not just to drugs. To kids, too! This was another message I needed. I have a tendency to say "yes" if I can possibly say it. However, saying "no" will help your kids learn that you can't always get what you want, teach them (again) about your separateness/personhood, and prepare them for coping with the inevitable frustrations of real life.
5. Don't inundate kids with toys.
The few toys they do have should be flexible and encourage imaginative play (legos, simple dolls, clay, crayons/paper, etc.). Too many toys with smother a child's creativity.
6. Restrict TV time.
Too much time in front of the boob tube will cut attention spans and decrease imagination. To me, however, the biggest concern Rosemond presented is that passive television watching prevents kids from engaging their minds and bodies in the real world, completing the developmental work of childhood, and discovering their interests and passions. Now whenever I'm tempted to put the kids in front of a movie so I can get a little extra sleep in the morning, I remind myself that every hour in front of the TV is robbing them of an hour they could spend on becoming the people they were intended to be.
My verdict is that this book is definitely worth reading, particularly (I think) if you're struggling with kids who whine, interrupt, complain that they're bored, and need lots of nagging/threatening before they'll do what you ask them to do.
Just remember: no matter what John Rosemond says, it's never okay to spank in anger.