Dads Against the Divorce Industry

DA*DI is devoted to reinstating the societal valuation of Marriage and the traditional, nuclear American Family, with particular emphasis on the essential role of FATHERS.

DA*DI offers contemporary reports and commentary on culture; its aberrations and its heroes.

Dr. John Rosemond:

"Don't let children off the hook"

We owe a measure of thanks to the First Role Model for so graphically demonstrating the rot at the core of the self- esteem movement and, more specifically, the corruption of the child-rearing malpractice it engendered.

by John Rosemond, September 13, 1998



One of the mantras oft recited by the psychologists of my generation is "criticize the behavior, not the child." For example, instead of telling a misbehaving child, "You were wrong to hit Billy," the child's parents are advised to say, "Hitting is wrong."

This prevents the child from "feeling bad about himself," which is to say it prevents the child from losing self-esteem.

In the late 20th century, by some strange turn, helping children develop good feelings about themselves became more important than helping them develop respect for others. Toward this end, if a child did poorly on a homework assignment, the teacher was to find some way of making him feel he'd done just fine. If he lost a contest, adults were to make him feel he'd won. If he misbehaved, his parents were to react not with anger, but with understanding.

Their mission became that of locating and eradicating the supposed psychological cause of his misbehavior. Thus the child was accorded an upbringing free of guilt, shame, and, most significantly, the truth.

Ironically, in these most secular of times, one can be a good person, but one cannot be a bad one.

Contrast this with the attitude of adults in the previous generation who felt that every child, being human, was capable of monstrous things. Containing this potential required confronting a child with his misbehavior, such that sufficient guilt was indeed produced. Think of it! Our forefathers and foremothers actually believed that where anti-social behavior was concerned, guilt was in the best interest of both the child and community.

Nor surprisingly, veteran teachers consistently report that getting today's child to take full responsibility for misdeed, much less evoking from him feelings of penitence, is like pulling teeth from a chicken. Perhaps, just perhaps, he can be arm-twisted into admitting that he did something wrong, but there's always and excuse, an "if," "and" or "but" to which the child adamantly clings.

My own parenting experience, now over, led me slowly to the conviction that by criticizing behavior but not the children themselves, we are letting the children off the hook, allowing them to place comfortable distance between themselves and their misdeeds. We are producing crops of children who were blind to the truth about themselves, thus incapable of admitting the truth to others. In fact, we Baby Boomers were the first such crop.

So it came as no surprise that a man who is supposed to serve as First Role Model cannot say "I was wrong, and I feel ashamed."

Rather, Bill Clinton says that "it" was wrong, and then implies rather directly, that his prosecutor is an evil prosecutor for having caused him such embarrassment. Not shame, mind you, but the humiliation of public embarrassment. Heaven forbid that he should be truly, privately, ashamed. That's so, well, out of fashion.

Our duty, of course, is to be outraged. Nonetheless, we owe a measure of thanks to the First Role Model for so graphically demonstrating the rot at the core of the self- esteem movement and, more specifically, the corruption of the child-rearing malpractice it engendered.

This is more than a national scandal, it's a cultural lesson, and therein lies the rub. Bill Clinton has a problem getting past "it" to "I." Most of the rabble, I fear, will have equal problem getting past the "he" to "we."

John Rosemond is a family psychologist in North Carolina. Questions of general interest may be sent to him at P.O. Box 4124, Gastonia, NC 28054 and at http://www/rosemond.com/parenting on the Internet's World Wide Web. For further information on John Rosemond and his organization please call (800)525-2778.

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