Saturday, February 20, 2010

Book Notes: The Well-Behaved Child (4/5)

John Rosemond, a long-time parenting speaker and writer, has written a new book on discipline that is focused on helping parents with kids ages 3 to 13. His book is based on an approach that he calls "old-fashioned" parenting - looking to the wisdom of previous generations instead of the strategies of professional psychologists. Rosemond's discipline strategy is actually very simple and built on a simple philosophy of parenting.

First, a few words on his philosophy. Rosemond teaches that kids are evil by nature (in line with a biblical view of depravity) and all of his parental coaching flows from this worldview. He believes that parents are called to lead their children rather than follow them, correct them rather than coddle them, and discipline them rather than apologize for them. All of these conclusions flow from his view that kids are foolish in themselves and need correction and direction.

Second, a few words on his discipline strategy. Rosemond teaches that parents need to shift the burden of bad behavior from themselves to the children that misbehave. He calls this the agony principle and most of the book is full of ideas on how to shift the agony of poor decision making away from the parents to the children. His most common discipline technique for young children is to send them to bed early, strip them of all electronics and privileges, and keep them from extracurricular activities. The book gives various examples of how to use these techniques, but the core elements are the same. Rosemond also gives helpful techniques to parents on how to shepherd young kids during tough moments without losing their cool (a constant challenge I have found with multiple young kids).

Overall, I thought his book was helpful in his abundant specific examples - he has obviously been working with many, many parents over a long period of time. He is convinced that parents have lost their backbone in our generation after listening to too many professional psychologists give expert advice that he believes has come up short. Rosemond is a funny writer and keeps the material moving. While I was thankful for his very practical advice and will most likely use some of his techniques with my own children, I was a little concerned that he didn't take the next step and talk about the need for a child's heart to be changed by the gospel. In my view (based on Ted Tripp's book Shepherd a Child's Heart), the greatest need that our children have is not compliant behavior, but transformed hearts. And while Rosemond's techniques can help us have compliant children, they will not produce hearts that love God and want to do what is right over the long-term. Only kids who love Christ first will continue to honor God after they leave the next of parental supervision.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Also, contra Tripp, he doesn't recommend corporal punishment for disobedience (haven't read the book but heard him on Dennis Prager's show).