Parenting at the Extremes

There are a number of responses making the rounds on the ‘net to a 2007 article by John Rosemond, psychologist and parenting guru, that has been reproduced recently and has gone viral. His point is that idolizing children and catering to them creates demanding and entitlement-minded individuals. Some of the responses to his article have commented on mothers choosing their children over a boyfriend (right) and mothers and fathers choosing children over their relationship with one another (wrong). My judgment on these two scenarios, just a couple of “what ifs” among many, undoubtedly give you a clue about where I stand on this.

In a traditional family consisting of a married man and woman who are biological parents to shared children, this is pretty straight forward, it seems to me. The husband and wife were family together, with or without children, before children came along and will be, hopefully, long after children have grown and left the family nest. But in today’s non-married, serial relationships (many times co-dependent and dysfunctional), and family structures with all kinds of various biological and non-biological members sharing space and time and coming and going, saying that children are the highest priority is largely a joke. It may sound nice and many parents may want to THINK that’s their priority, but the reality tells a different story.

A significant number of children are neglected, denied the attention they need, and even abused by parents too busy doing their own thing to do what’s best for their children.  Case in point….the alleged burgeoning need for so many churches and other groups to provide food backpacks for kids to take home over the weekend when they don’t have school meals because parents are negligent are unable to provide food in the home.  And now schools are encouraging “mentors” to come and hang out, play games, and just be a non-judgmental listening ear for kids who aren’t getting adult attention at home.

Other parents of the “helicopter” sort, hover and infantilize children by overprotecting them and failing to instill things like delayed gratification, personal responsibility, resilience, and development of wise decision-making skills that arises from making a few bad decisions early on in life and suffering manageable consequences as a result. There are times when the needs of children have to take priority FOR A TIME, but to make them the end-all-and-be-all of a family’s life at all times stunts their growth and creates children who will not be able to cope when they find themselves in the midst of the reality that doesn’t have the same deference to them.

Here is the link to Rosemond’s original article and the text of the article is below it.

“Why your kids should not be the most important people in your family              by John Rosemond

Think making your child the center of your universe makes you good parents? Think again.

I recently asked a married couple who have three kids, none of whom are yet teens: “Who are the most important people in your family?”
Like all good mums and dads of this brave new millennium, they answered, “Our kids!”
“Why?” I then asked. “What is it about your kids that gives them that status?” And like all good mums and dads of this brave new millennium, they couldn’t answer the question other than to fumble with appeals to emotion.
So, I answered the question for them: “There is no reasonable thing that gives your children that status.”

I went on to point out that many if not most of the problems they’re having with their kids – typical stuff, these days – are the result of treating their children as if they, their marriage, and their family exist because of the kids when it is, in fact, the other way around. Their kids exist because of them and their marriage and thrive because they have created a stable family. Furthermore, without them, their kids wouldn’t eat well, have the nice clothing they wear, live in the nice home in which they live, enjoy the great vacations they enjoy, and so on. Instead of lives that are relatively carefree (despite the drama to the contrary that they occasionally manufacture), their children would be living lives full of worry and want.

This issue is really the heart of the matter. People my age know it’s the heart of the matter because when we were kids it was clear to us that our parents were the most important people in our families. And that, right there, is why we respected our parents and that, right there, is why we looked up to adults in general. Yes, once upon a time, children were second-class citizens – to their advantage.

It was also clear to us – I speak, of course, in general terms, albeit accurate – that our parents’ marriages were more important to them than their relationships with us.
Therefore, we did not sleep in their beds or interrupt their conversations. The family meal, at home, was regarded as more important than after-school activities. Mum and Dad talked more – a lot more – with one another than they talked with you. For lack of pedestals, we emancipated earlier and much more successfully than have children since.

The most important person in an army is the general. The most important person in a corporation is the CEO. The most important person in a classroom is the teacher. And the most important person in a family are the parents.  The most important thing about children is the need to prepare them properly for responsible citizenship. The primary objective should not be raising a straight-A student who excels at three sports, earns a spot on the Olympic swim team, goes to an A-list university and becomes a prominent brain surgeon. The primary objective is to raise a child such that community and culture are strengthened.

“Our child is the most important person in our family” is the first step toward raising a child who feels entitled.
You don’t want that. Unbeknownst to your child, he doesn’t need that. ”


It was the danger of making his son Isaac an idol in his life that caused God to challenge Abraham by demanding that Abraham be willing to sacrifice his son.  Now, God, being a loving and good Father, did not ultimately demand the sacrifice of Isaac because he found that Abraham was, indeed, obedient in keeping the child in a place of proper importance, beneath God and beneath Abraham’s own relationship with God.  We have to be willing to “lay our Isaac down” (a reference to a book by Carol Kent who had to surrender her own “Isaac” after realizing how proud she was of her son and how much her own identity was vested in his success…..God doesn’t demand sacrificing our children in a literal sense, but in a figurative sense, trusting God’s plan and care for them and being guided by God in how to be good parents ourselves, able to guide our children into responsible and productive adulthood.   .