Parenting By The Book by John Rosemond

Tuesday March 8

kck"Let your yes be yes, and your no be no." 

Seems simple enough, right? But I think we all can say that parents' yes's and no's only really have meaning about half of the time. I'm definitely guilty of that. John and I both try to make sure we follow through with what we say to William. But then William puts up a fight, and if it wasn't really a big deal to me, sometimes I start to waver. Like last night, William's plate of dinner is in front of him, but he had brought a couple of this favorite cars to the table with him. After a few minutes we realized he was just playing with his cars and had to intention on touching his dinner. So we took the cars away, much to his objection, and said you can have your cars back if you eat your dinner first. So he takes a carrot, shoves it in his mouth, and says, "Army truck?" to which John says no, and I say, well... is it really that big of a deal? Can't he have his cars as long as he's also eating dinner? Sigh... and then I've shown that my "no" means "I'd rather you not," and my "yes" means, "I wish you would." And come on, our children are so much smarter than that! Take the same setting of the dinner table (which seems to be our current battle zone lately), and a toddler that refuses to even try his dinner if it's not bread, fruit, oatmeal, or apple sauce. Well, William's certainly not starving to death, so John and I decided it would be perfectly fine for him to go to bed without dinner until he ate what we gave him. A few meals went by with him pushing his food away (sometimes food like pizza and macaroni and cheese, foods that become staples for kids!), him requesting oatmeal, apple sauce, peanut butter sandwich, and us saying "you have to eat your dinner first." He would get pretty frustrated, but we'd let him down from the table and play until it was time for bed. And then one day he ate his broccoli, rice, chicken all gone, to which John and I would have a huge celebration, and reward him with his beloved apple sauce! All that to say that today, he will shove his last carrot in his mouth and say "yay, apple sauce!" Or he'll say all done after a couple bites, we'll let him down to play, and he doesn't ask us for apple sauce or oatmeal, or anything else. Because he knows. And he's not even 2. So don't tell me that this age or that is too young for children to understand and remember rules, discipline, and that their mom and dad's yes means yes, and no means no. William surprises me every day with how much he knows and has remembered from days or weeks ago.

(to be continued)

Monday Feb 21

This is one of the biggest questions when it comes to raising children, isn't it? To spank, or not to spank. I've heard lots of theories for both sides. Pro-spanking is "It worked on me!" while anti-spanking is "How can you teach a child not to hit people by hitting them?" Both sound pretty logical, but which one is right? 

Luckily we still have a choice in the US, as of now, while other European countries have outlawed spanking. Of course, teachers are by no means allowed to even put their hand on a child here in the US, but that's a good thing, right? 

John and I both have wrestled with this idea of spanking. Is spanking an effective form of discipline? If so, what are appropriate and inappropriate ages? 

As I approached this section of his book, I was actually surprised at Rosemond's take on spankings. I expected him to be on the side of "spank whenever possible," for some reason. He actually recommends making it a rare occurance, but asserts that it is sometimes necessary. 

Here are three common anti-spanking assertions:
1. Spankings are likely to escalate into child abuse.
2. Spankings teach children that it's okay to hit people who upset you.
3. There is always an alternative to spanking.

First, there is no compelling evidence that proves spanking encourages anti-social behavior, and actually researchers have found the most aggressive children are the ones who have never been spanked. One study found that aggression in children was most closely associated with permissive parenting. Rosemond reminds us that we don't need to "teach" our children to be antisocial; they're antisocial by nature, aka sinful. So if parents allow children to do what they want, our children will hit, and don't need to be taught to do so. That's not a big surprise.

The assertion about spanking and child abuse has some very interesting facts that discredit it. It makes sense after you think about it, but I was surprised when I first read it:

"The relationship between spanking and child abuse is paradoxical. Sweden outlawed parental spanking in 1979. A decade or so later, Bob Larzelere conducted a follow-up study in which he found that child abuse had increased significantly since the ban! Psychologist Diana Baumrind--considered the foremost researcher in the area of parenting style outcomes--has found that parents who are philosophically opposed to spanking are more likely to overreact to their children's misbehavior than parents who have no such philosophical objection."  

Wow! But that makes sense, doesn't it? I'm not allowed to spank my preschooler for hitting or throwing or kicking or biting, so what do I do instead? I try to reason with them, put them in time out, reward their good behavior, etc, all the things modern psychology tells me to do. But his behavior doesn't stop, so finally I lose it and shove him against the wall or something that is definitely not appropriate discipline. Or if I would never bring myself to abuse my obnoxious child, I would resort to lots and lots of screaming. Doesn't sound like a very positive child rearing experience.

More helpful facts he shared:

- Spankings seem to be most effective between ages two and six. Parents who are spanking children older than six, especially if the spankings are frequent, need to take a sober stock of their overall approach to discipline.
- Spanking is most effective when paired with another consequence, such as removal of privilege
- The more often a child is spanked, the less effective any given spanking will be. Children who are spanked frequently often appear to "immunize" to them.

Another common strategy I hear: "I always use a belt or paddle to spank, because I never want my child to associate my hand with anything other than affection." Rosemond would actually discourage the use of an object to spank, because when you spank with your own hand, you can actually feel the pain along with the child and thus can determine when enough is enough. That makes sense. And he encourages to offer a hug after the spanking is over, and has never found a child to recoil from the touch of a parent's hand when spankings are delivered righteously (rather than "beatings" or child abuse). 

He insists that spankings should never be delivered in anger and should only be for the most greivous offenses of disrespect, defiance, stealing, lying that was hurtful to others, and assault. One of John's friends always has his 5 yr old son wait in his bedroom while the dad calms down, before coming in to give a spanking, so he's never spanking in anger. That's a good strategy. John and I also have frequently discussed what merits a spanking. I think now we would both agree that there are more effective alternatives to spanking when he refuses to pick up his toys, like not allowing him to touch a single toy until he's done what we've asked. Otherwise, like Rosemond said, they'll eventually get immune to the spanking, and since it really isn't that bad (it only stings for several seconds), they decide to continue in their misbehavior. 
He also suggests a sit down chat to make sure the child knows why they are being spanked is appropriate. It should be done in private, and the parent should stay with the child until the distress has passed, and reassure them of their love. Of course, this dialogue and privacy may not be effective with a toddler when they hit you in public, which is why I was encouraged by this:

"With toddlers, however, there are certainly times when a swift pop or two in the rear, without a prior conversation or even so much as a warning, will be appropriate. In those cases, spanking is designed not so much to correct the behavior that's taking place, but to quickly terminate a misbehavior and get the child's attention."

 I see kids from daycare hit their parents all the time. Which makes me wonder about discipline at daycare. Most of the kids are there all day every day, Monday through Friday, 7:30am-5:30pm, with tons of other little sinful kids, allowed to do whatever they want because the only discipline teachers can administer is time outs. Needless to say, there are a lot of biters, hitters, screamers, stealers, destructive, disrespectful little children. A friend of mine who stays home with her toddler was trying to teach him not to just snatch toys out of William's hand while he was playing with them. She asked me "So how do you guys address this at the daycare?" I just laughed :) The teacher-student ratio for toddlers William's age is 1:6, and their classroom has 2 teachers, so they can have up to 12 toddlers. And while one teacher is changing diapers and the other one is cleaning up the lunch, fighting is pretty much tolerated. I would blame the teachers, only what else can they do? They're not allowed to spank, and good luck with the rational conversation. Not to mention there's TWELVE of them running around trying to climb the bookshelf, stealing someone's toy, sucking on someone else's pacifier, and biting someone in the arm (which you have to write up an incident report for), so something's gonna get overlooked. This is why I don't like all-day daycare for kiddos under 3 or 4. By about 3 or 4, they really start learning in the classroom, but maybe for a half day. Did you know that in Sweden, where universal healthcare exists, women get 1.5yrs paid maternity leave??? Ah... but that's a discussion for another day... :) 

I've lost my previous posts somehow, and have given up trying to get them back. So sorry if you missed them, here's my most recent...

Monday, Jan 3rd

As children go through different stages of development, we also go through different stages in parenting over our children. Rosemond breaks them down to four seasons. First from birth-2yrs old is the season of Service where we fulfill the role of servant to our babies. Infants can do nothing on their own, can give nothing in return, and if left alone will die. So of course, we're called to a very humble, selfless place when caring for an infant full time. 

While substituting at the daycare, I must say out of all the age groups I've worked with, the 2 year olds are my least favorite. I love the kids of course! But there's so much transitioning going on. In the 1's, they're all in the very beginning stages of following directions and learning how the world works, in the 3's they all are like little adults, can take care of themselves almost 100% in terms of cleaning up after themselves, being quiet when adults are talking, lining up and stopping when the teacher tells them to. But the 2's are potty training, sleeping in big kid beds, running around like crazy people some in control of themselves some not at all. And now Rosemond is calling this transition the most critical of them all in terms of parenting. I'm NOT looking forward to it. 

"Grandma understood that whereas her ministry was a necessary one [serving the role as servant in season 1], she was slowly creating a monster. If she did not bring this first season to a close, she was in danger of raising a spoiled brat -- a child who would believe that as his mother was continuing to do, so the world revolved around him. She realized that out of absolute necessity she had caused her child to believe that he had power over her, that she was his gofer; therefore she had to step up to the plate and correct that impression. And so, around her child's second birthday, as he became more capable of doing basic things for himself, Grandma began to make the critical transition from the first of parenting's seasons to its second. Under normal circumstances, this transition takes about a year. It is, without question, the most significant and precedent-setting of all times in the parent-child relationship, the future of which hangs in the balance (p171-172)."

The second, from age 3-13 is the season of Leadership where parents serve the role of authority. This is where we see Super Nanny coming to rescue the poor abused parents from their out of control children. This is because, like stated before, we allow season 1 to continue much too long, until it's too late to assert any authority without getting a somewhat frightening reaction from our children. Yet, for some reason, popular parenting describes the "good mother" as follows:

~She continues as servant as long as her child lives under her roof, demonstrating her commitment to him
~She always has her child at the center of her attention
~She is highly involved in every aspect of his life

"The new standard denies a mother permission to establish a boundary between herself and her child (p177)."

The third season is Mentoring between age 13-18/21. Pretty self explanatory. If season 2 is carried out well, this season should be us parents "mentoring" our kids, teaching them how to live life as an adult and preparing them for life outside the home. They are self-governing and able to make their own decisions. And last is Friendship. Finally!

One story that surprised me a lot was Rosemond's conversation with his father on curfew.

"Dad, when you were thirteen, what was your curfew?"
"I never had a curfew, son."
"You could stay out as late as you wanted?"
"No, son, I never stayed out as late as I wanted. I knew when to be in."
"Well, Dad, if you knew when to be in, then you had a curfew. That's what I'm asking here. What was it?"
"I told you, I never had a curfew."
"Then how'd you know when to be in?"
"Son, by the time you're thirteen, you'd have to be a fool not to know when to be in."

With these 4 seasons, I can't help but think of how God deals with us spiritually. Before baptism, or when God enters our life and gives us faith, we are completely helpless, 100% selfish, have nothing to offer our Father, and if left alone, we would eternally die. Christ came not to be served, but to serve. God intervenes in our lives and gives us a Savior who is the author (or initiator) and perfecter of our faith. Then as we grow, the law serves as a "guardian" (Gal 4:2), until we come of age and are no longer under its authority, but still respect it and seek its counsel. And Christ is considered our friend when he says true love lays down His life for His friends.

Oct 15th

I've heard that divorce rates increase for empty-nesters. Maybe it's because couples put off inevitable divorce until they're done raising their children. But it's probably because once the children leave, the couple has no idea how to function solely as husband and wife to each other. For the last 20+ years they've neglected their relationship for the "higher" road of child-rearing. Dad was absent as a care-giver to support his family financially, and mom commits her life to sacrifice for the kids.

Since being married and also now raising a child, I've believed the dad is a lot more involved in child-rearing than he ever was. How many more diapers have our husbands changed and feedings they've done than their fathers? Men are definitely more present to their kids and share an equal part of parenting with their wife. Rosemond calls me out on this, and once again I'm proven wrong. For one, who's the one checking out the parenting books? It's not Dad. If they do read any part of a parenting book, it's been pushed on him from Mom and passed by her approval. When the last time your husband's come home and said "Honey, I was talking to the guys and they highly recommended reading "this-or-that-parenting." We should check it out!" I think we would fall over! Second, parenting books address women. At least the ones I've read. They use me as mom in second person, and refer to dad as third person. Maybe there's one chapter for dad at the end, specifically labeled as such. Thirdly, women, how much credit do we give our husbands? I'm definitely guilty  of this. Look at the jokes you make. Have you ever heard a mother for three say "I have four children," referring to her husband as one of her children? I know I've joked with co-workers about making sure I'm always there at William's doctor appointments, otherwise I won't get the information from John I need, or I can't trust him to ask the right questions. Or when we leave Dad home with the kids, come home and say "Hey, the house didn't burn down. Great job!" We're just joking, right?

"Parenting as one flesh means no other relationship or enterprise of any sort should come before their relationship with each other. In other words, being one flesh with children means the same thing as it does without children. The relationships a husband and wife have with their children should not, must not, come before their relationship with each other, and the enterprise of being parents (parenting) should not, must not, come before the enterprise of being married. Husband/wife must trump father/mother (p117-118)."

To me, this is actually a stress reliever. You're telling me that it's okay to put something before my role as a parent? I think we naturally feel this way even though pop psychology wants to make us think differently. We know that if we give every ounce of ourselves to being father/mother, we'll go crazy, which is why we have "me" times or schedule play dates with other parents to have relationships outside our kids. But possibly the only earthly "enterprise" that's supposed to come before our parenting role is our marriage, so when we put something else in it's place (like work or friendships with other moms/dads, or even our own parents and siblings), this causes a lot of wear and tear on our marriages. Rosemond encourages parents to go on at least one vacation a year without their kids. Even for just a 2night weekend. Really?? That sounds great, doesn't it?! I think John and I will work on that soon :)

Friday, Aug 13th

As I'm reading, I'm continually saying "Really? But..." Rosemond challenges widely-accepted child psychology that's been around since before we were born. He's saying things like "children are not screwed up because of their parents, they're screwed up because they're sinful" (my words,  not his) which I agree with, and promoting high self esteem is not Biblical. What? We're always trying to build our children's self esteem, that's key isn't it? However, as I read, his examples are pretty convincing and support his conclusions.

"The Adam and Eve principle: No matter how good a parent you are, your child is still capable on any given day of doing something despicable, disgusting, or depraved (p36)."

This statement can be very freeing especially to John and I as we will be raising "Pastor's kids" who are notorious for doing despicable, disgusting, and depraved things. :) I never thought of it this way: God is the most perfect parent with the wisest and more insightful parenting strategies, and his children, Adam and Eve, who he walked with, spoke to, and "raised," brought sin and death upon the whole human race. Wow. And on the sinful nature, I especially enjoyed this paragraph:

"The metamorphosis is usually sudden, startling. One unremarkable night, parents put to bed and eighteen-month-old, who has been to that point cuddly, affectionate, and easygoing. The next morning when they walk into his bedroom, they are met by the Spawn of Satan, who announces that their parenting honeymoon is over. The demon-child demands his way and screams like one possessed when his parents don't dance to his tune, don't dance fast enough, or dance the wrong dance. He also expects them to read his royal mind and goes ballistic if they are lax in this duty.... "Where has our sweet boy gone?" they wail (p38-39)."

Haha, that made me smile.

As John and I think about discipline, I always imagined it going a little like this: William hits me. I stop him, grab his hand, and sternly tell him, "We don't hit." And I would teach him right and wrong behavior, and he would learn not to hit anymore. Brilliant! But Rosemond suggests children (especially toddlers to about age 5) cannot be "taught" before they must be "forced" not to hit, not to lie, steal, destroy, forced to share. They need to know that adults will not tolerate this behavior no matter how big a fit our toddlers throw. So when they hit, we spank them hard enough for them to remember that experience, give them love and forgiveness, and now that we have their attention, begin our lesson on hitting.  This makes more sense than "talking sense" to your two-year-old.

"But won't restricting him and making him feel guilty of his self-expression damage his self esteem?" Well, Rosemond reminds me that some people who had high self esteem (or to admire one's own person, to think highly of oneself) include Hitler, Stalin, Bin Laden, Hussein, and Ted Bundy. Hm... Tu chez. More convincing are his Scripture references. Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Matthew 20:16 "So the last will be first, and the first will be last."Luke 14:11everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Phillipians 2:5-7 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant.

I think we all (Christians) knew this, we are to think of others and their needs more than ourselves. But for some reason I separated this from child rearing, as if I could only tell this to myself or my young adults. But for my children I want them to think very highly of themselves, so they could succeed in life...

Still not convinced? Take a look at the kids who were raised to have high self esteem. Teachers deal with an epidemic of kids with behavior disorders. And what about the "entitlement" mentality this generation is accused of so much? And then the work-ethic of young wiper-snappers. Our parents were such hard workers, working above and beyond the expectations and bare minimum. Even in my college work experience I've been commended on such simple things like coming to work on time, or coming to work at all. That's because twenty-somethings tend to do only what is required of them in order to keep their job, or expect whatever excuse they give to be accepted.

With so much more child psychology books and info at our fingertips than ever before, we're raising the rudest, most self-centered, most ADD and BD children than ever before. Why haven't I questioned this before?

Feel free to check this book out and read along with me, and let me know what you think!