ATLANTA – What is the most important thing for parents to remember about raising children? Paying more attention to their marriage than to their children. While that advice might seem counter-intuitive, having a marriage-centered home instead of a child-centered home is the best possible thing for children.
"Today's parents have stopped being husband and wife and are being mothers and fathers only. They need to stop occupying the roles of mother and father primarily. Good parenting emanates from the marriage union," said child psychologist John Rosemond during a recent parent retreat in Atlanta.
Restoring marriage as the home's center will liberate women and men from a parenting paradigm that has placed the child at the center of the home.
"One of the first commands of the Bible is found in Genesis 2:24: 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh (NIV),'" said Rosemond, who has written numerous books on parenting, including the recent Parenting by the Book. "We've forgotten that in today's family."
One way to focus more on the marriage than on the children is to realize that parenting has three distinct seasons. By adjusting parenting to these seasons, parents can keep the family dynamic from becoming unbalanced.
Season one is the season of service, which is from birth to age 2. "This is the season where the mother orbits around the child," said Rosemond. "But what's happening in America is that the mother stays orbiting the child, never moving out of season one. We are freezing the American mother at season one."
When the child is between the ages of 2 and 3, the mother begins the crucial transition to season two by lowering her level of doing for the child, and building a boundary between herself and the child. "During this transitional period, the mother redefines herself to the child as she moves into season two, the season of leadership and authority," said Rosemond.
Season three, which encompasses ages 3 to 13, is also called the Decade of Discipline. "At this time, the child should be orbiting around the husband and wife, while the parents discipline the child and impart values," said the child psychologist.
During season four, which runs from age 13 to emancipation, the child's orbit begins to increase until he's ready to launch into a life of his own. Many of the problems of older teens and college age kids can be traced to a failure of parents to properly mentor their children during season three.
American parents fail to understand how detrimental skipping these seasons can be to their children. "What we are seeing politically today is the inevitable consequence of how we raised our children over the past 30 years," said Rosemond. "Today's parenting is completely focused on the needs of the child, and every one of these issues has an impact on America today."
A One-Man Mission
Rosemond insists that he's not saying anything that would surprise a grandmother or great-grandmother, because his parenting advice has its roots in how children were raised for generations prior to the 1960s. It was then that American parents began to look to professionals for how to raise their children instead of continuing to use the tried-and-true methods of their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.
"Parenting before 1960 was a whole lot easier and children were a whole lot happier," he said, adding that numerous studies back this up. In the 1960s, the demonization of authority leeched over into the family and parents began to question the legitimacy of their own authority.
"Parents were told by professionals that the way children had been raised had been wrong, and that we should change how we parent," said Rosemond. That opened a Pandora's box of problems that parents are still under the influence of today.
"Today's parents are thinking entirely too much, and that complicates things. Children have to be forced through issues, not talked through issues," he asserted. "Today's children are being raised by people who parent more in consideration of children's feelings than thoughts, ideas and character."
By urging a return to simpler parenting that eschews much of what many child psychologists adhere to, Rosemond has made few friends in the mental health industry. "We have psychologized everything," he said. "We're relying on psychology for salvation for the issues we have as parents."
He sees today's therapeutic culture as paralyzing parents from being effective leaders in their homes.
"Today's child misbehaves and the American parent asks why, what is the meaning behind it – and then they fail to act on the misbehavior," he said. "Sixty years ago, a child misbehaves, and the American parent simply addressed the act. There's too much talking and not enough movement in American parents today."
Rosemond advocates a return to leadership parenting. "Proper parenting is ethical leadership, which is leadership always conveyed for the benefit of the person being led."
Leadership parenting looks calm, poised, possessed, unforced, natural and relaxed. Leadership parenting does not use a lot of words, but instead speaks in declarative sentences.
"We've lost this style of parenting today. Good leaders do not explain themselves. The minute you explain yourself, you act like you're not sure of yourself," Rosemond lamented. "And that's what American parents do all the time – explain themselves to their children."
Emily Gadoury attended the conference with her husband, David. They live in Durham, N.C., with their 4-year-old daughter.
"We needed to be reminded that we needed a good foundation for raising our daughter," Emily Gadoury commented. "We realized we were talking too much, trying to explain too much to her when we needed just stop talking and have more leadership in our parenting."
With the church showing little difference from the world in social and moral issues like divorce, Rosemond pointed out that there's not much Christian parenting going on these days.
"The church pretends it hasn't bought into the modern psychology, but it has," he said. "There is parenting based on Scripture, but Christians have been totally captured by the secular parenting thing."
David Gadoury reflected on author's thoughts, saying, "He speaks about simple things that rings true to us. We also appreciated being reminded that evangelical Christianity sometimes has adopted modern parenting styles that aren't biblical without noticing."
Rosemond concluded the two-day parenting retreat by reminding parents that leadership speech delivered in a calm manner is Plan A, with consequences as Plan B. Most parents today have that reversed, with consequences as the first step in correcting children's behavior.
"Parents today are fooling around with consequences," he said. "You have to establish disciplinary presidents or consequences. The child has to see an organized, committed and systematic approach to discipline for it to work effectively."