Working parents deal with balancing act

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- As a parent, have you ever wondered “Am I doing it right”? Or, “What should I be doing”? There may not be just one right answer, but family psychologist and parenting expert, John Rosemond, believes his ideas really work. His advice may surprise you.

Liza Franz is a working mother of two who has followed Rosemond’s work for years. She just recently attended one of his lectures at St. John the Baptist Church in Kenmore.

“As moms, guilt has really permeated the way that we parent and that we have set the mommy bar, as he calls it, so extraordinarily high,” says Franz.

Rosemond’s response to that “mommy guilt” is that parents should not feel guilty, and in fact, should not pay a whole lot of attention to their children.

“The more attention you pay a child, the less attention a child will pay to you. And you cannot do your job properly if the child is not paying attention to you,” says Rosemond.

In fact, Rosemond believes we have been listening to the wrong people tell us how to raise children for the last 50 years. He says his philosophy started to change after he attended graduate school and was raising the first of his two children.

He says, “It was experiences with my own kids and more specifically the older of our two children who was a major behavior problem during his early childhood years and just coming to grips with the fact that the problem was being caused by what I learned in graduation school. What I learned was that that high self esteem was a good thing, and my mother had told me that, in effect, people with high self esteem have superiority complexes and I should have known better. But, you know, I went to college in the 1960’s, and that is when we were embracing the false idea that new ideas are better than old ideas. All these new ideas were coming into parenting and I was embracing all these ideas and began to have problems with our kids that my wife and I had never seen as children ourselves. But we had been raised entirely differently than the way we were raising our kids, and it was a hard lesson to learn that it was my education as a psychologist that was causing these problems.”

So, what is Rosemond’s idea of the ‘right’ way?

For starters, he says “You should have a life. It’s very important that women do two things. That they demonstrate to their children that women are interesting people, and you don’t do that by focusing all of your energy on the child, and the second thing is you demonstrate to the child that authority resides legitimately in the female and you don’t do that by focusing all of your energy on the child either.”

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay any attention at all to your children, or play with them. However, Rosemond believes you should avoid setting aside specific, routine times for this type of interaction.

“I don’t think these kinds of things, these new parenting rituals I call them. You get home and you get down on the floor and you play with your kids for 15 minutes, it’s anxiety driven, it’s not natural it’s ‘I have to do this because I haven’t been here all day’. You should do what feels good. If it feels good to play, play. If it doesn’t, just say to your child, ‘I don’t feel like playing today’, and it’s fine. Children will learn to accept this and then when you do play, it will be a spontaneous and natural thing between you and your child”.

One parent asked Mr. Rosemond about giving ‘time-outs’ and what she can do to get her daughter to listen when it’s time to leave.

His did not mince words with his response.

“Well, in the first place, ‘time-out’ is the weakest disciplinary consequence ever invented. Most children, if timeout is used on them, they learn to shrug it off. It has no lasting effect whatsoever. I wouldn’t be asking the child to accompany me if I knew that was an instruction the child wasn’t going to obey, I would just walk over and take the child’s hand and, after the child’s hand was in mine, I would say ‘we are going'”.

Rosemond also has strong feelings on starting children in “academics” too young.

He says, “It is generally speaking parental anxiety that is supporting these programs financially. Children don’t need to be in these programs. There is no evidence whatsoever that promoting early childhood learning prior to the first grade has any lasting effect on the child’s long term academic achievement, and there is even evidence to the effect that, the earlier you introduce academics, the less motivated the child will be in high school, and the less likely the child will be an independent reader.”

Is it ever too late to make these changes?

Rosemond says, “It’s never too late for the parent to make proper changes. There does come a point in time when your influence over your child is not to the point where changes that you make are going to have any significant effect on the child, but please, make the changes anyway.”

This is all comforting to Liza Franz.

“I’ve learned that allowing children to solve problems for themselves instead of jumping in too soon will actually provide them with that confidence that they need to be successful later in life.”

Rosemond says it’s okay to have a life of your own, and that in the long run, it will help your child have a life of his own too.

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