John Rosemond sees the rise of child and teen mental health and behavior problems as alarming trends over the last 50 years. Mounting a “retro-revolution in parenting philosophy and practice,” he says, is the solution to failed parental leadership:
In 1970, one of my grad school professors proposed that this trend could be explained with the flight-or-fight principle (i.e. in response to perceived threat, a person is inclined to either flee or stand and fight).
He theorized that when parents fail to provide sufficient authority, they also fail to convince their children that they are capable, unequivocally, of guaranteeing their safety and security. The world begins to seem threatening, and that insecurity is likely to express itself as either emotional flight (depression, anxiety, or both) or fight (rebellion).
Belligerence and disrespect towards authority figures — especially parents and teachers — is much more common today than it was a generation or two ago. Teenage rebellion, says Rosemond, is neither historically, nor culturally, normal. The increased incidence of mental health problems is not normal, either. Rosemond traces back to the origins of modern parenting philosophy:
Not coincidentally, these alarming trends began when the mental health community began promoting the “child-centered” and “democratic” family in the 1960s. Best-selling psychologists like Thomas Gordon (Parent Effectiveness Training) even said parents had no right to exercise final authority in a child’s life.
As a result, increasing numbers of parents began putting children at the center of attention in families and seeing their task as that of establishing wonderful relationship instead of providing competent leadership. As an insufficiency of parent authority has become endemic, so have various manifestations of child insecurity, most prominently the flight or fight responses of depression, anxiety, and rebellion.
I’m not sure I’m buying all of what Rosemond is saying. After all, the world is so much different now than it was 50 years ago. I hope he’s not suggesting bringing back the switch and paddle, or other objects of corporal punishment that parents of yesteryear grew so fond of, in order for them to regain command and control of their children.
What do you think?
(Back Pat: John Duffy)