What I’m Reading: A Family of Value

A Family of Value is a practical, hands-on book by John Rosemond on how to raise respectful, resourceful, and responsible children. John Rosemond is a child psychologist who believes that most of the child psychology of the past several decades has been counter-productive, and that old-fashioned methods in raising children are generally preferable to modern approaches.

That doesn’t mean beating your children or sending them off to the orphanage or whatever Dickensian images “old-fashioned child-rearing” might bring to mind. Rather, he points out that until the 1960s, grandparents passed down to new parents a set of time-worn adages for child-rearing that worked perfectly well. Adages like, “You made your bed, now lie in it;” or, “I’m going to give you enough rope to hang yourself;” or, “A watched pot never boils.” These age-old methods had wisdom behind them, but the best part was a parent didn’t have to understand why they worked, didn’t have to become an expert themselves, they simply had to follow the adages.

The book is divided in three parts. The first part is background on how Rosemond came to believe modern child-rearing methods are ineffective and is something of a rant against a lot of trends in modern society. I felt this was the least interesting part, and as the book was written in 1995, somewhat outdated as well. This part can be skipped without losing much. (By the way, I just checked on Amazon, and the book is still in print.)

The second part is where the good stuff starts. He puts forth how modern parents can revive the old-fashioned methods. I don’t want to give away all his secrets, but he makes a lot of good points here. One of his main principles is that a family with a child who has problems that are worrying his parents is putting the worry in the wrong place. Many of his recommendations are for taking various problems (not doing homework, talking back, etc.) and putting the worry on the child. By making it the child’s problem rather than the parents’ things tend to get solved a lot more quickly.

Another principle of his I like is that children are resilient, not fragile. He thinks in most cases, if you treat a child as a responsible person (within the limits of his age) rather than a victim he’ll be fine. Chores, homework, relations with friends and siblings are all things children could and should be handling for themselves, and parental involvement only causes more problems than it solves.

One thing I have already started doing is assigning more chores. Rosemond stresses that chores involve a child in the family, indeed, they give him a stake in family life by making him responsible for helping the house function. In fact, Rosemond thinks children should have one or more chores to do around the house every day. We already made our kids clean their rooms, help clear the table, and a couple other tasks, but this very week we have started upping their contributions to keeping the house clean.

The third part is a series of specific situations Rosemond has culled from parents he’s counseled and letters he’s received, and how he recommends dealing with them. As in the second section, we’ve already found a helpful approach for our daughter, who is a picky eater. He doesn’t believe you should force a child to eat something she doesn’t want to, but neither should a child be allowed to complain about her food (rude!) nor does the parent need to go to the trouble of making extra dishes for a picky eater.

Rosemond recommends you simply give your picky eater very small portions of all the same food the rest of the family is eating. If she complains, take an hour off her bedtime. If she eats it all, she may have seconds, dessert, or snacks the rest of the family is having. But if she doesn’t finish it, set it aside. If she says later she is hungry, bring out the food again and say after she finishes it she may have snacks, dessert, etc. Otherwise, she must not be really hungry. The main thing is not to make a big deal about it. Over time, increase the portion size until the child is eating normally for her age.

Starting tonight, we put this plan into effect. Our daughter didn’t eat much, but it did eliminate the complaining. Halfway there!

I heartily recommend this book for parents of children who could be more respectful, responsible, or resourceful, and are looking for a fairly straightforward way of dealing with it, without a lot of psychological theories or terminology.

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