Dear Dr. Fournier:
I am frustrated with the advice of all of you parenting experts out there. I read articles so that I can become a better parent, but I am constantly running into people like you who say one thing, and people like John Rosemond who says another. You promote being a child advocate, while he insists on an old school discipline approach. Which method is correct? Or is it that you are both wrong? I just want to do the right thing so that my child is going to be the best she can be. I am including an example article of his.
I have a parenting guidance program for parents who are in a state of limbo, as you seem to be. When I take parents through the process, my ultimate goal is not to imprint my method of parenting onto them, but rather to help them discover their own voice in parenting. This can sometimes take quite a while to achieve, as the parents have been saturated by the cultural talking heads to the point that they have buried their own instincts for parenting, and with it their hearts.
The article you sent is one by John Rosemond detailing what he considers to be the make up of a “terrific” child. This fifteen item inventory– the Rosemond Truly Terrific Kid Scale—that will tell parents whether their child is truly terrific or not, and if not, needs some work.
As I stated before, I instruct parents that they need to listen to their own voices when assimilating the advice of experts. Readers of my column know that I am a child advocate, and am in stark contrast to a columnist like Rosamond. It would be easy for me to ramble on about how his methods are wrong, and that you should try what I say, but ultimately the final decision must be made by you. Does the advice you are being given resonate with your sensibilities as a parent? Does it violate what you feel in your heart is the way to go about it? If it affirms your feelings, and perhaps offers some additional considerations, then go for it. If you find the advice to be alien to you, uncaring and/or harsh, then ignore it! If the way you raise your child is unnatural to you, and does not reflect the values that you hold dear for all of the “expert” advice in the world, then you are doing both your children and yourself a disservice.
WHAT TO DO:
Here are my responses to Mr. Rosemond’s “terrific kid” checklist. Please remember that these responses are not meant to show you the “definitive way,” nor do I consider the original list to be the authoritative work on the subject. Without further ado:
1. Eats whatever foods he is served, without complaint. Are we attempting to raise human beings, or are we trying to turn a child into a robot? Also, here’s to hoping the parent of this poor child is a good cook.
2. Does his homework without being told, does at least 90 percent without asking for help, and does his best in school. I agree with the parent’s role as a monitor and not as a teacher. As for “does his best in school,” this is vague. We all have bad days.
3. Looks an adult in the face when spoken to and responds appropriately.
4. Asks for something by saying “Please.”
5. Receives something by saying “Thank you.”
6. Declines something by saying “No, thank you.”
7. Addresses adults as Mr., Miss, or Mrs. as opposed to using their first names. Numbers 3 through 7 are cultural/social habits and rituals. These ritualized behavior patterns can (and should) be learned for the world outside your home. That said, whether these matter to you as a parent within your home is a decision for you alone. As for the 7th, it would depend on the adult in question.
8. Obeys classroom and playground rules at all times. In the interest of emotional and educational safety, a parent should tell the child how they should behave, but also what to do should another child break the rules.
9. Neither creates nor participates in conflicts with or between peers. I agree with the thought, but if someone engages your child physically, it may not be possible to walk away. Circumstances can make this one easier said than done.
10. Knows not to enter an elevator until everyone who so desires has exited.
This is a matter of safety that has become one of courtesy. Teach the safety component first so that the child understands why people view it as courteous.
11. Does not use a cell phone, for talking or texting, in social situations. And if your child is texting instead of eating his brussel sprouts, that would be double trouble! Joking aside, this has no bearing on whether or not your child is terrific, but more with the family rules in the home.
12. Goes to bed, in his own bed, without complaint and goes quickly off to sleep.
This is the one I admittedly have the most trouble with, and must again raise the point about robotic behavior. I can’t go quickly to sleep every night, so why should I expect my child to? What if he is ill? What if he is scared or has had a nightmare? The day I deny my child comfort as a mother is the day I cease to be one.
13. Does not often create or participate in sibling conflict (If an only child, this point is automatically earned). Is this understanding supposed to be innate? Strategies for behavior must be taught. “Don’t do that,” is not teaching, it is an ungrounded order.
14. Accepts responsibility when confronted with misdeeds.
Like number 13, responsibility is not innate and must be taught. This should translate into ownership of misdeeds.
15. Does not interrupt adult conversations, including phone conversations. Best to be seen and not heard? What if there is a serious problem? What if your child is crying?
There are my immediate responses to the same issues as Mr. Rosemond. But remember, you must listen to yourself when assessing what we are promoting when it comes to parenting. To quote a Bruce Lee (yes, that Bruce Lee) maxim, “Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”
CONTACT DR. FOURNIER
Have a question about education, education-related issues or your child’s schoolwork or homework? Ask Dr. Fournier and look for her answer in this column. E-mail your question or comment to Dr. Yvonne Fournier at firstname.lastname@example.org.