Would you take a bullet for your child?
In John Rosemond’s line of thinking, if you just said yes, that means your heart is in the right place when it comes to raising your child.
Now, if only your head could catch up.
Rosemond, 66, the comfortably old-school parenting columnist, brought his brand of advice on a weeknight last week to a packed house at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in the Town of Tonawanda.
He looked audience members straight in their collective eyes and said, more than once, that 98 percent of them needed to shift their parenting styles.
Mothers, he said, set the bar too high when it comes to roles they desperately want to play for their children, creating a mountain of shifting responsibilities impossible to climb.
Too many fathers, he said, have been too absent for the last several decades when it comes to raising children in a way that makes the younger generation responsible citizens capable of helping America to symbolize the power in the Golden Rule: to love their neighbors as themselves.
“There isn’t a man in America,” he said, “who comes home and says, ‘Honey, has the new Parents magazine come in yet?’ ”
Not that Rosemond loves the constant barrage of parenting tips that he believes adds to the perceived duties mothers, in particular, take on to prove they can meet all the demands expected of them as parents in 2014.
He thinks parents willing to take a bullet for their children already have most of the ammunition they need.
“If you would take a bullet for your child, that’s all that’s important,” Rosemond told the crowd. “You do not, under those circumstances, have to justify any decision you make to your child. None.”
If a child demands answers, all you need tell them is, “I know what I’m doing. I don’t need any help making this decision, and I don’t care if you like it. … You’ll get over it. I know something you don’t know and I’m not even going to tell you what it is, because it will just be confusing. But I’m not confused about it at all. Someday, you’ll be old enough to understand it. I’ll tell you then.
“And then, walk off. It’s calm, it’s casual, and it involves this complete possession of your authority.”
Rosemond drew laughter several times while bending down to address an invisible child and pleading with the child to clean up the toys in the living room so mommy could entertain a friend who was about to arrive.
We don’t tell our children to do something in such cases, he said. We beg. We cajole. We bargain. Then we surrender, and there are no consequences for the child because – wait for it – “that wouldn’t be nice.”
Rosemond, who lives outside Charlotte, N.C., encouraged big discipline for what might seem, at first blush, a small indiscretion. He prescribed three weeks of 6:30 p.m. bedtimes – no exceptions – as a way to underline the expectation of parental authority.
He stressed the idea of parental consistency. He talked about 1960s-born permissiveness, and how, in his mind, it has corroded the family dynamic and threatened the country. And he lamented the movement during the last generation for adults to do everything possible to boost the self-esteem of children.
He asked his audience two questions to underline the incongruity of it all:
No 1: True or false, high self-esteem is a good thing, and we should do everything we can to help our children acquire it?
Almost everyone in the audience raised his or her hand.
No 2: You’re moving into a new house. If you had a choice, would you prefer living next to a person with high self-esteem or living next to a person who’s humble and modest?”
When Rosemond asked, “High self-esteem?” very few hands shot up.
“So,” he said, to a great deal of laughter, “you want your children to have high self-esteem, but you don’t want to live next door to them when they become adults.”
The first question was answered from the head, he told those in the sanctuary. “The second question, you answered from the heart.”
“You know that culture is built by people who possess humility,” he said. “Humility is not shyness. Humility is not being a wallflower, being afraid to ask the girl to the dance. Humility is simply that as a human being, it’s not about you. You are here to serve.
“Act in front of your child like you know what your doing ...” Rosemond advised. “It’s calm, it’s casual, it’s unscripted. There’s no formula. You just do it. You embrace the role. You embrace the responsibility, and you have a good time with it. This is culture building, this thing called parenting. It’s not some sideshow.
“It’s the main attraction.”