2021 marks the forty-fifth year I’ve been writing this column. I’ve been told it is the longest-running syndicated column written continuously by one author. That takes “Dear Abby” out of contention.
In the beginning, I was four years out of graduate school, directing a community mental health program for children and families, a mere eight years into marriage and seven into parenthood. A colleague had suggested I submit a column idea to the local newspaper, so I did and much to my amazement, the editor decided to give it a go. One minute, I was still figuring out what being a husband and father entailed and the next, I was a parenting expert.
At first, the column simply regurgitated psychology’s “party line.” I was an avid promoter of behavior modification, self-esteem, and everything else about the new parenting philosophy I had learned in grad school. Meanwhile, my wife and I were having significant struggles with a son whose motto was “YOU CAN’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO!” When his third-grade teacher informed us that he was the worst-behaved child she had dealt with in her twenty-year career, we finally woke up to reality and marshalled the resolve to set things straight. Set them straight we did, which goes a long way toward explaining why we are still married, and happily so. Our family rehab was accomplished by doing precisely what my profession was telling parents not to do, but rather by doing what pre-1960s parents would have done under similar circumstances.
That experience turned my head around. I began coming to grips with the fact that post-1950s psychological parenting theory was a complete farce. Not mostly farce, mind you, but completely farce. That boomer parents had bought into it explained why they were having more problems with the simple process of raising a child than their grandparents could have imagined parents ever having. I began ringing the alarm and espousing a return to traditional understandings concerning children and their upbringing.
As the new, retro-radical John Rosemond began emerging from behind the psychobabble curtain, mental health professionals went bonkers. Understandable, given that I was threatening the justification for their very existence. I won’t go into the battles I’ve fought with the mental health professions – my chosen field and area of license. Suffice to say, the battles have revealed the Emperor’s nakedness.
I am what is called an “outlier.” Seventy years ago, I would have been regarded as useless. Very few people would have wanted my advice because childrearing then was driven by a combination of tradition and common sense, which was still held in common. In that regard, “my” advice is not mine at all. I am committed to the cause of keeping the old way of raising children – it was defined by a certain attitude as opposed to a set of methods – alive and kicking.
Where childrearing is concerned, there is nothing new under the sun. Things began to fall apart when American parents fell under the sway of new ideas promoted by a new profession; when they became persuaded that capital letters after one’s name confers intellectual infallibility. Some lessons can only be learned the hard way.
And so, after forty-five years, I keep right on truckin’. I will retire when I no longer make sense, in which case I will need to be informed.
Family psychologist John Rosemond: johnrosemond.com, parentguru.com.