Sunday, April 11, 2010

Review: The Well-Behaved Child

My son will be turning two in July but is already testing the waters of the "terrible twos". The tantrums began to appear somewhere around 14 months, whenever I dared utter the "N-O" word. Six months later, we deal with tantrums pretty much daily. Many I ignore and they fade as quickly as they appear. Some situations escalate into hitting or biting, requiring immediate attention. We've tried one-minute time-outs in his Pack 'n Play in a secluded room, but he is still a bit too young to understand the consequences of his actions so we've had mixed results with this tactic. In an effort to formulate an effective strategy for future discipline, I sought the help of The Well-Behaved Child by John Rosemond.

A family psychologist, parenting expert and author, Rosemond uses his 36 years of professional experience working with families to develop this "how-to" book for parents of children ages 3-13. His step-by-step program is based on biblical principles, traditional parenting approaches and common sense, covering a wide range of disciplinary problems. The Well-Behaved Child includes real-life examples, tools and solutions to common behavioral problems such as bedtime battles, tantrums and general defiance, as well as eccentric ones like head banging and hair pulling.

I will admit that Rosemond's pompous attitude turned me off initially. I am very skeptical of anyone who thinks they have all the answers when it comes to parenting, regardless of their education and expertise. He even goes so far as to deem any parenting ideal that clashes with his "psychobabble" - and it's followers "morons". He maintains that children are inherently bad and it is our job to exercise those demons. My face was molded into a permanent wince through his entire first chapter. But I pressed onward nonetheless.

Rosemond asserts that if we all channeled our grandmothers and great-grandmothers, using the "old-school" common sense of our elders, we would not have the "attention-deficit", "chemical imbalances" or behavioral problems that plague our children today. He attains that children cannot be reasoned with and any attempts to do so will be futile. Ultimately, he believes we need to make parenthood a dictatorship - not a democracy - for happier, more secure, more obedient children.

I wholeheartedly agree that consistency is key and that "Alpha Speech", or saying what you mean and meaning what you say, is necessary so children understand that you are an authority figure. But I also believe in raising free thinkers. I think responding to my child's inquiries with "because I said so" (Rosemond's favorite phrase) is doing them a disservice. I personally see no harm in explaining why I am using a particular form of punishment for misbehavior. I also was not fond of the "Doctor" principle, in which you basically lie to your child and tell them that the doctor (an authoritative third party) prescribes early bedtime or no television for Behavior XYZ. If I want my son to respect my leadership, I don't want to throw a monkey wrench in the picture by inventing an imaginary person to dish out orders. I was absolutely horrified at his advice to lock a potty-resistant 4-year old in the bathroom for an entire day (including mealtimes eaten in the confines) until he or she concedes. I'm sure this method may work for some but scaring a preschooler straight is much too harsh for my taste.

I will say that I loved Rosemond's concept of "tickets" and plan to implement this method with Nate when he is slightly older. It is one of his gentler methods, yet allows for stern consistency.

In the end, I found myself straddling the fence with this book. I think there are some valuable tidbits found in these pages and would recommend it, but I would suggest picking and choosing what works for your family instead of relying on this as an absolute means of discipline. I do plan to check out Rosemond's previous book, Making the Terrible Twos Terrific! so I can get some ideas to nip some of our current problems in the bud.

BUY IT: You can purchase The Well-Behaved Child at most major book retailers and online at (ARV $16.49).

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book as a member of the BookSneeze review program. I was not compensated in any other way for my review.


simplymerry said...

that book sounds dangerous. i am healing from an authoritarian childhood where such control was rationalized, and am ministering to others from similar backgrounds. because of that i am sensitive (although try not to be hyper-sensitive) to things like this. I agree with your own thoughts, but i would never recommend this book to parents because it's so easy to fall into a trap of finding what "works", what "fixes the problem", and not realize the long term damage these methods will have, both on the child and on the parent/child relationship.

Kristen said...

I'm so sorry to hear about the damage from your childhood. (((HUGS))) I try not to be so judgmental of parenting styles because I know there are different strokes for different folks but there are some things that just push me over the edge. I don't believe in extremes, or black and white parenting so to speak. There is a HUGE gray area and I believe it is totally possible to raise confident, caring, obedient children without resorting to harsh tactics like his locking a child in the bathroom to potty train *shudder*

His "ticket" system is actually something I can use. I wanted to explain it more in my review but I was afraid I'd be too verbose. Basically, you choose one to three of your child's target misbehaviors and each misbehavior has five tickets, which can be cut-out construction paper that you hang on the fridge. Each day, the child starts with 5 tickets. 1 ticket is taken away each time the child exhibits the misbehavior. You take them to the fridge as you explain why you are removing a ticket. You could also do this in accordance with a time out. If they lose all 5 tickets that day, they get early bedtime and/or toys/TV/games taken away. The next day, you replenish the tickets and start over again. This is a gentle method that I think would really work for a toddler or preschooler. Like anything, it would take some time to see results but it encourages consistency without being authoritarian.

This, and some of the charts and strikes variations on this system were really the saving grace of the book, for me. His attitude left a lot to be desired as well. So, that's why I was ultimately on the fence about this book. I think some of the info is good if you are confident enough to pick through and not get caught up in following his every word because he says it works. Military camps work too but I won't be rushing out to scare my toddler straight :/

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