John Rosemond

John Rosemond

As my regular readers know, I am a certified heretic in my field: child and family psychology. To the point, I am convinced that psychological parenting theory, which began to inform American child rearing in the late 1960s, has caused more problems than psychologists know how to solve.

I came to this conclusion in the early 1980s. I was in private practice at the time and grappling with the realization that few of my clients were getting good results from the psychologically-correct manner in which I was approaching the child-rearing problems they brought to my attention. Without going into the relatively long story, which involved major problems my wife and I were having with the older of our two kids, suffice to say I pretty much trashed nearly everything I had learned in graduate school and post-graduate seminars and embraced the pre-psychological parenting approach my parents’ generation (and previous generations stretching back thousands of years) had employed.

Almost everyone in my profession was telling parents to avoid punishment. I not only began recommending punitive consequences, but punitive consequences that were HUGE (but never, contrary to the myth surrounding my name, spanking). My colleagues were stressing the importance of talking to children about their feelings. They called it “affirming” and “validating” child feelings. I became convinced that these parent-child or therapist-child conversations usually made matters worse. I stopped meeting with children for that reason. Child psychologists were making a living diagnosing children with ADHD, which looked a lot to me like old-fashioned disobedience and irresponsibility. I was the first psychologist in America to blow the whistle on the lack of science and logic behind the diagnosis and the specious explanations being offered for it.

Because I was spreading my heresies through this column, my speaking engagements and my books, they caused many people in my field to develop full-blown hysteria. I became a target for all manner of attempts to silence me, but here I am, still spreading heresy and intending to do so until I’m no longer capable of much of anything.

Going back to my feelings about child therapy, it is a fact that the reliable efficacy of not one form of psychological therapy with children has ever been verified. Furthermore, I have collected an ever-growing trove of stories from parents attesting to the damage done by therapy to their kids.

I was recently reminded of this by an online article in which a psychologist listed signs that “Your Child Needs Therapy.” One of said signs was “If talking to your child about his feelings doesn’t seem to be working.” I had to laugh to keep from screaming. With rare exception, talking to a child about his feelings accomplishes nothing. As does a child’s behavior, a child’s feelings need to be disciplined. Children don’t need to be encouraged to vent their emotions. They need to be taught to control them.

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