Book Review: The Well Behaved Child by John Rosemond
About The Reviewer
I am a mom of a 21 month old daughter and have been a reader/huge fan of John Rosemond ever since I started reading his parenting column in our newspaper (before I was a parent, by the way). I bought this book for my husband for Christmas when our daughter was about a year and a half.
I must say that I really enjoy reading this book, and Rosemond’s writing in general, because of his style of writing. It reads just as if you were having a conversation with him and a light and humorous conversation at that. At the end of his analogy to compare disciplining to gardening, Rosemond admits that “my analogy breaks down at that point because I can’t figure out how a well-behaved child is like a broccoli floret. But you get my point.”
At the same time though, Rosemond does a great job of speaking directly to the concerns of his readers. He states that effective discipline can only come if a child feels loved by his parents, and, as soon as you might potentially doubt whether your child feels loved, Rosemond assures you that “the only parents who take time to read parenting books are parents who love their children without reservation.” Rosemond’s experience is this area, and his true desire to help parents, is evidenced on every page of this book.
Essentially, Rosemond is writing a book to parents not to address each behavior individually - which I imagine he would say would not only be stressful and exhausting but also ultimately ineffective – but a guide to help parents change their attitudes and lifestyle to create an environment in which children learn that obedience is their quickest and surest way to happiness.
Rosemond does this first by highlighting seven fundamentals necessary for the parent in order to have successful discipline of the children. He emphasizes the importance of these fundamentals as being more important than any prescribed way of dealing with individual offences on behalf of the child. Essentially, he argues that a particular method of disciplining could vary from parent to parent and even from child to child of the same parents, but what is important is that the parents behave in certain ways that create an environment of respect and obedience in the household.
Rosemond does use this book to give parents ideas for dealing with what he calls the “Top Seven Behavior Problems” and some more wacky random issues parents may encounter. His techniques do not involve time outs though, so be prepared for some more aggressive (non-physical) tactics. Rosemond boils everything down to the old tale of the monkey on the back. If there is a problem, who exactly is the one most directly affected? That is the person who is going to be doing the work to fix the situation. If the parents keep the monkey on their back by trying to fix the problem, nothing will change. It isn’t until the child sees it is in their best interest to change their own behavior (the monkey is on their back) that a real and lasting solution can be found.
Rosemond closes his book with a description of what families look like/do that creates a space where discipline is done effectively and a family runs smoothly. Of course, every family is different, but Rosemond argues that parents whose children behave well did not just happen to get lucky but that they embody the qualities he describes. Could one argue that there is a bit of flexibility here though? I know Rosemond does not advocate paying children for doing chores and yet families that do that are not necessarily less happy. Perhaps, like he said before, it is really the attitude that is the core of the today’s discipline problems.
Rosemond gives our current societal approach to discipline a spanking that I hope we will not soon forget. Let’s throw out the “boost self-esteem” and “talk it out” diatribes that are making our children so unhappy and go back to how our grandmas used to do it.