According to parenting expert and author John Rosemond, the problem with American parenting today “is the 1960s.” He offered a simple solution: “America needs a ‘Make American Parenting Great Again!’ movement.”
Writing in his syndicated column at Omaha.com, Rosemond said that the 1960s replaced rationality with emotionality, with mental health professionals urging people to “get in touch with their feelings.” He recounts that when he was in graduate school in the 1960s his profession was teaching the following:
–feelings — especially children’s feelings — held deep meaning
–therapy was all about helping people recover the feelings their parents had made them [repress]
–getting in touch with one’s feelings was the key to happiness.
Rosemond, author of The Well-Behaved Child, called this “a crock” and said that with rare exception feelings are more apt to deceive than to promote good decisions. “Pre-psychological (pre-1960s) parents insisted that their children control the expression of emotion for the good of those children (as well as the good of everyone who was ever in contact with those children),” he said. Rosemond explained that people who allow their emotions to control them “are not happy people.”
America is paying the price for the 1960s psychobabble that Rosemond encountered in grad school. We’re witnessing a national epidemic of snowflakes who are unable to cope with disappointment or control their urges. Heck, they can’t even tolerate being in the presence of someone with whom they disagree!
Rosemond slammed the mental health professionals who foisted these bogus theories on America. “They claimed, without evidence, that insisting upon emotional control was repressive and authoritarian (and therefore harmful),” he said. “They claimed, without evidence, that enforcing shame upon a child who had behaved anti-socially — they named it ‘shame-based parenting’ — would result in psychological problems (when the opposite is true).”
While acknowledging that shaming a child can be taken to an extreme, he said it’s an essential element to the formation of a conscience, “which is essential to responsible self-government.” Rosemond, who is the author of a plethora of parenting books, explained that “children are not naturally disposed to shame.” He said, “It must be trained into them by loving parents who are not supposed to enjoy what they must do. A child so trained is destined to become a compassionate, responsible human being, not an emotional basket case.” In other words, this is how you raise an adult who is not a snowflake.
I’ve been saying and writing the exact same things since at least 1997 or so. It’s so good to hear other mental health experts finally climb aboard the rational train.
I won’t argue that everything done by parents before the 1960s was right, and that everything since has been wrong. But one very grave mistake since that time has been throwing out rationality and replacing it totally with emotions, not only with child rearing but in education as well (particularly in government schools).
Parents should not shame their children for being “anti-social”. The real problem isn’t anti-social behavior; it’s self-defeating behavior. If children learn how to THINK in “if-then”, logical sequences – not just for science and math, but in everyday life – then the anti-social behavior will usually self-correct.
Reasoning matters for children, to an extent. But it cannot and should not replace accountability. You can hold children accountable while still explaining the reasons. Children must come out of childhood feeling loved. But they also need a sense of justice. Justice arises not from parents who are infallibly and always right, but from parents who are, at the core, reasonable – while still being in charge. In a deeper sense, it’s not the parents who are in charge. It’s just reality. Parents are merely the messengers. This is what a child has to eventually grasp, going into young adulthood. Without this grasp of accountability in nature you get … well, snowflakery. You find tantrums in young adult bodies. You witness a rising inability to move out of their parents’ homes or find their own health insurance before the age of 26. The kinds of things we’re seeing today, more and more.
Feelings are good things. But they’re not your means of survival and not your way of knowing what’s true or false. Most of today’s adults need to learn this just as much as their children. Just as you’d never use feelings to solve an arithmetic problem – one plus one equals two – you should not encourage kids to use feelings to figure out what makes sense and what’s true.
At the core, that’s how we got a generation of snowflakes. It didn’t begin with the current generation, to be fair. It has just reached its climax with the current one. Wherever one stands politically, socially, culturally or otherwise, I think everyone understands (if they’re honest) that today’s generation (in its present state) could never tackle the challenges faced by earlier generations of Americans during such challenges as the taming of the Wild West; the Civil War; the Great Depression of the 1930s; or World War II in the 1940s. Not that we WANT such calamities to recur, but it would be comforting to know people could confront them if necessary. In a culture where highly educated young adults (the same age as those who fought the Nazis) are handed coloring books and given stress counseling merely because a Republican wins the Presidency, it’s hard to envision, say, fighting off coyotes or Indians in the wilderness America once was, or figuring out ways of budgeting and innovating to move past the worst economic crisis in human history, the Great Depression.
The root of “snowflakery,” as well as today’s growing social and political crisis, is the deep-seated, thoroughly internalized belief – from parents and schools alike – that a child’s feelings are “deeply meaningful.” Feelings are usually not deeply meaningful. When they are, it’s special and profound, but not all of life is special and profound. People have to accept reality if they’re to earn the highs they so crave. Feelings are just feelings. They are not barometers of truth or falsehood by themselves. Unfortunately, parents and children alike have been sold – and largely bought – a false bill of goods. That’s how we got the Age of UnReason.
Emotional repression is not a healthy thing. But it’s not the root of all that’s evil. If reasoning with your feelings is part of what you consider to be repression, then you’ve got a much bigger problem on your hands. If you let your child’s feelings stop the show – whatever needs to go on in the family environment on a particular day – then you’re teaching your child that his or her feelings are, indeed, “deep and meaningful.” But then how is that poor child supposed to cope when he or she grows into adulthood and finds that feelings and reality do not always coincide? If the message received in childhood was, “There, there, you feel it, and therefore it’s automatically and always important,” then what kind of emotional and behavioral reaction can you expect the young adult to have when confronted not only with other people, but with all of objective reality itself?
This emphasis on feelings over reality and reason is so subtle and so subconscious that few even understand it any longer as an “approach.” It’s part of the cultural mainstream and part of everyday life in just about every household and school in America. While most of us will agree something has gone terribly wrong in American society, while not yet quite having a name for it, this factor may be the single biggest cause of what ails us.
Rosemond is right. There never was a scientific basis established that shame or rationality/logic ruins kids’ self-esteem. Shame itself is not the problem. The issue is WHAT or WHEN you encourage your children to feel shame. In times past, mostly before the 1960s, many children were taught to feel shame merely because they felt something. But feelings are not shameful. They are merely something to be understood—and never blindly acted upon! Feelings can be erroneous, illogical or off-base, but they’re not usually deliberate. Never feel shame for what you feel; always, however, be prepared to question what you feel.
If you encourage your child to feel some shame for initiating violence against another child, on the other hand, then you’re doing a healthy and moral thing. If you encourage your child to feel ashamed and embarrassed for not getting his homework done, or his chores done, like the other kids who did a better job, you’re enlightening your child, not harming him. You’re showing you believe enough in him or her to raise the bar to a realistic yet still high standard.
On the other hand, if you encourage your child to feel ashamed for being “selfish,” when all that’s really happened is he’s refusing to let other kids grab his toys and run over his private property or into his private space – well, that’s shameful for you as a parent.
Shame itself is neither inherently right and rational, nor inherently wrong and unhealthy. It all depends on what you’re claiming the basis for the shame is. And Rosemond is entirely right that children are not naturally or automatically predisposed to shame; it has to be learned. Rational shame stems from rational and healthy ideas about what’s true, what’s right, and how to cope in everyday life. It’s the ideas you’re instilling in your children that matter.
It’s true that you generally cannot reason with young children. Children are not yet ready to be in charge. You cannot wipe out accountability for their actions and put their immature, often ignorant perspectives in charge of everyone’s life. It’s no good for anybody, including themselves. Most parents, even since the 1960s, don’t go this far. But many go farther than they should, and that’s a real problem, as Rosemond indicates.
The 2016 campaign for President taught us that, sadly, many (most?) young people coming of age no longer want the individual liberty and self-responsibility that goes with a free society. They don’t want a Republican – not any Republican – and even Hillary Clinton was too right wing for them. They want all out socialism. Bernie Sanders posed as a combination of Sugar Daddy and Santa Claus. Socialism is a myth, of course, no less a myth than Santa Claus, although a far more toxic one. It’s the illusion that you can have whatever you want for free, and feel virtuous and generous in the process, always with someone else’s money, of course. The things socialism promises are never going to happen, and never have happened, but this doesn’t stop many young people from yearning for it. (Heroic exceptions of liberty-loving and rationality-loving young people duly noted, of course.)
You wouldn’t have a majority of snowflakes in this generation if it all wasn’t rooted in the deep-seated and false belief that one’s feelings, yearnings and desires are more important than they really are. Follow your dreams, follow your bliss, and be all you can be? Absolutely. Those are profound and beautiful messages to get across to any young person. But HOW you attain those dreams is the key. Do you do it with reason, reality, logic, facts, long-range views and hard work? Or do you do it merely by wishing, dreaming, and screaming an entitlement to an always elusive “happiness”?
The answers most people have to these questions determine the course of a culture. Young people are, quite literally, the future. A society is, after all, nothing more than the individuals who comprise it. I don’t know what will become of liberty and freedom in general, as well as the faltering American republic in particular. We can probably all agree it’s not looking too promising right now. But if you’re in the process of raising your own child, here and now, then consider what I’m saying. The kind of world today’s children will inhabit as adults will be determined by today’s parents instilling the values of reason and rational thinking in their kids.
Follow Dr. Hurd on Facebook. Search under “Michael Hurd” (Rehoboth Beach DE). Get up-to-the-minute postings, recommended articles and links, and engage in back-and-forth discussion with Dr. Hurd on topics of interest. Also follow Dr. Hurd on Twitter at @MichaelJHurd1