How To Raise A Well-Behaved Child

Surprising Parenting Lessons Learned From a World-Renowned Parenting Expert

Let’s face it: none of us likes to admit we might be wrong, or God forbid, making mistakes disciplining and raising our children. The fact is, parenting is the biggest responsibility we will ever take on in our lives, and, according to parenting expert and child psychologist, John Rosemond, it isn’t that complicated and should not be stressful, anxiety-filled, frustrating or life-consuming. What?!?!

I spent an informative evening last week entranced by the words of Rosemond, one of the nation’s most widely read parenting experts. The conference I attended was called, “Parenting with Love and Leadership.” That this man has authored 14 parenting books, has a regular syndicated parenting column in newspapers around the U.S., is an internationally recognized speaker and is a parent who has raised two well-adjusted children had me eagerly wanting to learn all the secrets to parenting enlightenment (cue harps and angels). “Teach me, wise one,” I thought as I sat in the auditorium at Hawaii Baptist Academy, surrounded by other hungry-for-answers parents.

Warning: Some of things I am about to share may come as a shock (they did to me), but, once you digest the info, it will probably make more sense (as it did to me).

Go Ask Tutu

Surprisingly, in the first few moments of his talk, Rosemond explained to the audience that the reason parents today are having problems raising children is because they are listening to all the parenting psycho-babble and propaganda preached by experts (like himself, the ones with “capital letters after their names”) and reading what they need or should be doing instead of asking their elders for advice. “But, thank you for buying my books and CDs today,” he said laughingly. Rosemond continued to extoll the parenting ways of my grandmother and great-grandmother’s generation and how effective they were in parenting intuitively. He poo-pooed the cater-to-every-whim parents of today, who desperately seek the answers to their children’s problems from experts—“Ahem, I’m just here for research,” I said under my breath.

According to Rosemond, our grandmother’s generation believed that the “good mothers” do as little as possible for their children, while today’s mothers believe that the good mothers do as much as possible for their children. His point is emphasized by the alarming statistics that indicate that children’s mental health (back in grandma’s day) was 10 times better than that of children today.

Child rearing should be approached with a common-sense plan; one similar to what grandma or great-grandma would have done back in her day.

Pay Them No Mind

While infants and young toddlers require a good amount of attention, children 3 and older need supervision and very little attention.

Parents back in Tutu’s day told children with “outbursts of high self esteem” that they were acting too big for their britches and that they “better size themselves to their britches very quickly,” says Rosemond.

Children Are Just Bad

Shocking as it sounds, your sweet 22-month-year-old child, who has never been taught defiance, violence or any other bad behavior, will one day, out of no where, act out in verbal and/or physical defiance. According to Rosemond, there is no psychological explanation for this. Bottom line: We don’t need to teach bad behavior. “Children are just born bad,” says Rosemond. He feels that once parents accept this fact, the easier it will be to deal with them when they one day, “out of character,” dramatically act out.

Children Don’t Come First

Rosemond explained how important it is to keep your focus on your marriage, not on your children. “If you put your marriage first, then children will learn to pay attention to you,” says Rosemond. Accordingly, “By age 3, a child should be paying more attention to his parents than his or her parents are paying to him or her.”

Parents need to establish themselves as authority figures. You can’t effectively parent a child unless the child is in a position of being a student, and this requires your child to be paying close attention to you.

Parents need to “force” children to behave properly. This does not require you to be physical, loud or dramatic, but rather calm, clear and direct. Once your child submits to your forceful authority and you have his or her attention, you can begin teaching him or her effectively.

Lead Them, Don’t Micromanage

When you lead you delegate responsibility, you don’t micromanage. When you lead you should have a vision for your child, a vision of the adult you want your child to be when he or she is 30 years old. Consequently, you should parent with this vision in mind. Ask yourself if what you are doing is in the best interest of the adult child you are envisioning. Discuss your values with your children as much as possible so they know what you expect from them. This will help in character development. 

Example: In the “good old days,” parents use to let kids do their own homework; they didn’t sit at the table helping their children through each problem. These children were also expected to find their own afterschool entertainment. Today, parents take on this role and drive their children to one after school activity to another. As a consequence, children aren’t learning the sub-skills that are necessary to be responsible and self-sufficient. Children used to learn by trial and error without having adults hovering overhead. They learned to take responsibility for themselves in social and task-oriented situations.

Children need to be told what to do, when do it and then left to their own devices. If it doesn’t happen, then the consequences, which are always way bigger than the crime, are issued accordingly.

Why should consequences always be bigger than the crime you ask? Because you never want the negative behavior repeated again and a child with huge consequences learns very quickly not to make the same mistake again.

To Heed, Or Not to Heed This Advice

The changes I have been making since this conference have been gradual, but definitely purposeful. One of my goals has been to find ways to settle conflicts and defiance calmly and constructively. I believe I learned some effective ways to do this.

The only way to find out whether Rosemond’s teachings are right or wrong, effective or not effective is for you to implement his back-to-basic parenting strategies and decide for yourself.

My plan, together with my husband, is to lead our children in ways that will produce the well-adjusted, happy, selfless, caring adults we see (cross our fingers) them becoming.

For more information on John Rosemond's parenting techniques, check out these resources, Parenting by The Book, The Well-Behaved Child, Parent-Babble, Making the Terrible Twos Terrific, New Parent Power.