This is the second installment of my three-part series on wrong ideas disseminated by so-called parenting experts. All three columns will be posted to johnrosemond.com.
The laundry list includes the core belief of what I call Postmodern Psychological Parenting: the idea that it is good for one to hold a high opinion of one’s self — specifically, one’s abilities and accomplishments. This good feeling is known as high self-esteem. Research finds that such self-ish feelings are highly correlated with low regard for others.
In relationships such self-ish people tend to be manipulative, even abusive. They believe that what they want, they deserve to have; therefore, the ends justify the means. That is, by the way, what toddlers believe. Toddlers are cute little sociopaths in desperate need of britches that fit.
The experts told educators that high self-esteem would improve student achievement. But it hasn’t. It turns out that people who possess high self-esteem tend to believe that anything they do is worthy; therefore, they do not do their best. They do just enough to get by, which is what many employers tell me characterizes many young, college-educated employees.
That should surprise no one. As youngsters, these entitlees received trophies for warming benches.
Then there’s the notion, put forth by psychology, that the same principles that govern the behavior of a caged rat also govern the behavior of a human being. This never-proven proposition is known as behavior modification theory. Indeed, behavior modification works reliably with rats and dogs, but it only appears to work with a human being if the human being decides to cooperate. Yes, when a child (for our purposes) misbehaves, a consequence of some sort is necessary, but whether the consequence causes the child to change his ways is anyone’s best guess.
Parents already know this — they simply refuse to accept the evidence because experts have told them that proper consequences, properly used, will solve any behavior problem.
And then there’s the nefarious notion, put forth by Sigmund Freud, psychology’s babbler-in-chief, that parenting produces the person. How then is it that some people raised by good parents turn out badly and some people raised by bad parents turn out well? The exceptions, and they are legion, make a mockery of this deterministic notion, yet many therapists continue to try and make the Freudulent connection between their client’s childhoods and their client’s problems (thus giving said clients convenient means of denying personal responsibility). Ironically, Freud’s theories have produced lots of parental guilt, mostly for female parents.
Having no way of knowing that capital letters after one’s name do not equate to wisdom, American parents began applying themselves to these bogus notions in the late 1960s.
And now, 50 years into this parenting experiment, parents are having more problems with children than their great-grandparents could have ever imagined.
The greatest con of the 20th century: There are new things under the sun.
Family psychologist John Rosemond: johnrosemond.com, parentguru.com.