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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Heart-based parenting is best

By John Rosemond

A few questions recently asked me by several people, including a journalist, and my answers (these have been edited and modified for clarity):

Q. In your writings and your talks, you claim that parenting is common-sensical. Can you explain what you mean by that?

A. I think all God's creatures know how to properly raise their young. If a certain creature did not possess that knowledge, the species wouldn't survive. We humans have survived because we know how to raise children. We knew how to be parents before there were people like me giving parenting advice. In fact, I think we did a generally better job of raising children before there were people like me. Ironically, I happen to believe that parents will begin to regain the common sense of raising children when they stop listening to people like me. I think our collective common sense concerning children has been swamped by a tidal wave of psychobabble that's lasted some 40 years now.

Q. Are parents trying to be psychologists where their kids are concerned?

A. Today's parents tend to think psychologically about their children. A child does something that might be out of the ordinary, and instead of just responding to it matter-of-factly or ignoring it, the child's parents will try to understand it. They try to interpret it, to figure out what it supposedly represents. That's psychological thinking, and it always leads parents into an intellectual labyrinth inside of which things just get more and more complicated.

Children are simple. They wear their emotions on their sleeves, and the reasons behind why they do things are not complex. Good parenting is done through the heart, not the head. But today's parents try to do it primarily through their heads. They think about it too much, and an intellectual approach to child-rearing simply doesn't work. It trips you up.

Q. You seem to believe that it's more important for parents to discipline properly than to have good relationships with their children.

A. Well, that's a bit simplistic actually. I believe that discipline is fundamentally leadership. I believe if you lead your child properly, a good relationship will result. The problem with today's parents is all too many of them are putting the relationship ahead of leadership, and that's like trying to get the cart to pull the horse.

Q. Can you talk a bit more about discipline being leadership? That's a new idea, isn't it?

A. No, it's not. Until relatively recently, parents understood that the proper discipline of a child was accomplished through proper leadership. The modern parent thinks proper discipline is accomplished by manipulating reward and punishment. That's happened because today's parents believe behavior modification will solve all of their problems. Leadership, by contrast, is not a methodology. It's primarily constituted of clear communication, decisiveness and an overriding ethic of doing what's best for others. The principles of effective leadership are the same if you're leading a child or if you're leading a group of employees in a corporate environment. When parents begin understanding that, parenting will become a simple thing again.

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents' questions and publishes his speaking schedule on www.rosemond.com.