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Tough talk for today's parents

Parenting author and family psychologist John Rosemond isn't one to mince words on parents of today and why he thinks they would rather be friends with their children than do their job.

He will bring his classic get-tough talk to a discipline seminar for parents on Monday at the Hilton at Carillon.

"I'm going to talk about discipline in the broad sense," Rosemond said in a phone interview from one of his many road trips where he dispenses old-fashioned parenting advice. "When people think about discipline they think of misbehavior, but the origin of the word means to create a disciple."

Rosemond, who has written 12 books on parenting and has a syndicated column appearing in more than 200 newspapers, describes his parenting approach as traditional and biblically based. He's had it with modern advice that focuses heavily on building self-esteem and being friends. Critics often take him to task for ignoring the benefits of positive parenting and choosing punishment over incentives.

He certainly is tough to pin down.

He doesn't advocate spanking, for example, but he wrote a whole book debunking all the studies that say it's harmful.

"The whole spanking debate seems to bring out the worst in people, in parenting liberals and in parenting conservatives," Rosemond said. "Liberals get hysterical and conservatives think it's the answer to everything. There seem to be very few people who occupy a common-sense middle ground."

People did not spank all the time back in his Baby Boomer childhood, he says. If you are doing it more than once a week or even once a month for older children, it's likely too much.

His advice doesn't require spanking, but does require being firm.

For a 2-year-old throwing a temper tantrum in a store: "Put on a fake nose and glasses if you have to so nobody knows it's you, and just get the child out of the store." Take away the child's audience, leave the shopping cart behind if you have to but don't be held hostage to a tantrum, he says.

For a 3-year-old who knows how to use the toilet but is defiantly refusing to: "You gate the child (in the bathroom) after you get him up in the morning. Feed him breakfast and lunch in there if you have to, but he stays in the bathroom until he uses the toilet."

For a 10-year-old who isn't doing his chores: "Give the child a set of jobs, post it on the refrigerator and if he doesn't do the job on time and properly, he will spend the rest of the day in his room with no privileges. A few days of that should cure it."

For a teen who isn't doing homework or paying attention in class: "I hesitate to say, 'Here's the formula,' because with the older child the response has to be customized." Take away what's important to them, he says, whether it be their social lives, video games or cell phone. Until there's improvement, "his standard of living should be reduced."

Too many parents don't realize their jobs require leadership, not friendship.

"I call that a psychological boogieman created, promoted and proliferated by psychology," he said, "so today's parent walks on eggshells around their kids."

Sharon Kennedy Wynne can be reached at wynne@tampabay.com.

If you go

The Building Blocks of Parenting

Monday's YMCA-sponsored parenting seminar features family psychologist and author John Rosemond at 11 a.m. at the Hilton St. Petersburg Carillon Park, 950 Lake Carillon Drive. Tickets for the luncheon are $35 per person and $15 for the 7 p.m. presentation. (727) 467-9622, suncoastYMCA.org.

Tough talk for today's parents 09/11/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 17, 2008 2:07pm]

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