- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 22, 2009

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for the 1960s to be over and done with. That destructive decade has ruled American parenting for 40 years and pretty well ruined it in the process.

Before the ‘60s, parents sought child-rearing advice from their elders. Since then, parents have sought advice from a professional class — which is to say, people like me. Courtesy of Joyce Brothers (Dr. Benjamin Spock had nothing to do with it, really), we so-called “experts” were able to convince the American parent of a truly absurd proposition: to wit, that a 35-year-old with a graduate degree in child psychology, a five-year-old marriage and one 2-year-old child knows more about children and how to raise them properly than an 85-year-old woman who never finished the eighth grade but who raised 10 kids into successful adulthoods. Like I said, absurd.

I was driving — creeping is more like it — down the 405 in Los Angeles the other day, getting really worked up about all this. Instead of road rage, which is justifiable in Los Angeles, I was having an attack of psychobabble rage.

I started thinking about the really dumb things the babblers began telling parents in the 1960s. Take, for example, “Children need to be able to freely express their feelings.” In 1969, when Willie and I became parents, we believed that. It took three years for us to snap out of it, but by then our first child ruled our family with his habit of freely and loudly expressing his feelings whenever we failed to obey him.

It took awhile, but I finally realized children should not be allowed to freely express anything. The natural inclination of the child is antisocial and narcissistic. Children believe that what they want, they deserve to have, and because they deserve it, the ends justify the means. Tyrants believe the same thing. Therefore, children are tyrants by nature. Give a tyrant/child an inch, and the tyrant/child will demand a mile.

Parents show their love for their neighbors by forcing their children to subdue their “inner bullies” and show respect for the needs of others. Yes, force is required. You cannot talk a child into giving up his delusions of grandeur and omnipotence.

Once force has succeeded in creating a child who will give his parents his undivided attention, then and only then can his parents teach. Force is the horse that pulls the cart of teaching. Before the child abuse zealots go nuts, allow me to clarify: I ain’t talking about spanking — although I am not completely eliminating the option either. The most effective parenting force is applied calmly, but with steely resolve.

Just as a child should learn that certain behavior is inappropriate to certain situations, a child should learn that the expression of certain feelings is inappropriate to certain situations. Children should learn that it is just plain wrong to get mad when one loses a game, laugh when someone else trips or cry when one doesn’t get one’s way. Just as a child’s behavior must be disciplined, so must a child’s feelings.

So must a child’s thinking. Children should learn that certain thoughts are correct and other thoughts are wrong. After all, wrong thinking leads almost inevitably to wrong behavior. On all three counts — behavior, feelings and thinking — parents need to be unequivocal. They need to make themselves perfectly clear what they expect and what they will not tolerate.

Yes, American parents need to wake up from the 1960s, take the flowers out of their hair, roll up their shirtsleeves, and get back to the work of raising good citizens, defined simply as people who would rather serve than be served, people with more “other-esteem” than self-esteem.

Now there’s some change I could really believe in.

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his Web site at www.rosemond.com.

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