In May of this year, advice columnist John Rosemond received a letter from the Kentucky attorney general. The letter informed Rosemond that one of his columns in the Lexington Herald-Leader violated state law.
Rosemond’s alleged crime was that in the column, he had answered a question from a parent about how to handle a teenager. This, the Attorney General averred, constituted the practice of psychology, and according to the AG, Rosemond was not licensed to practice psychology in Kentucky.
For those who may not be familiar with Rosemond, he is first and foremost a traditionalist. Because of his old-fashioned views on childrearing, both his admirers and detractors refer to him as the Anti-Coddler.
In columns and at conferences, Rosemond has stated that the field of psychology has done more harm than good to the American family. He believes in discipline, believes children should respect and obey parents, and argues that parents have turned the tables and are now obeying children. He asserts that just as we can spoil children with too many material things, we can also spoil them with too much attention.
You get the drift. You also begin to see why the Kentucky Board of Examiners of Psychology instigated the attorney general’s involvement. Of course their claim was a ruse. Their real problem was Rosemond’s conservatism. Whether or not the Board of Examiners has targeted Dear Abby, Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, or Dr. Drew is a matter I haven’t yet researched, although I suspect I know what I’ll find.
Rosemond isn’t without credentials as far as training and experience go. The 65-year-old father of two and grandfather of seven graduated from Western Illinois University with a master’s degree in psychology. He worked as a psychologist and program director at mental institutions in three states and has written 14 books on parenting.
In 1978 Rosemond became a syndicated columnist, appearing in over 200 newspapers. The Lexington Herald-Leader, from which he was warned to cease and desist, has carried his column for over 30 years.
If the Board of Examiners thought they could intimidate the soft-spoken Rosemond with their bureaucratic authority, they were mistaken. In July Rosemond filed suit in federal court charging the Kentucky Attorney General with attempting to restrict his First Amendment right of free speech. Backed by the Institute for Justice, Rosemond apparently caused the Board of Examiners to backpedal. After learning of his lawsuit, the Board claimed it had no problem with Rosemond’s opinions, but with the fact that at the end of each column he was dubbed a psychologist.
Of course, Rosemond is a psychologist; however, he doesn’t swallow everything that child psychology teaches. He counsels readers to avoid contacting professionals for parenting problems and to rely more on common sense. Rosemond is the Great Un-complicator.
He argues that parents often over-react when their children, especially boys, misbehave. To one mother who was distraught about her “aggressive” 5-year-old, Rosemond wrote, “You’re not describing a boy who has aggression problems; you’re describing a boy.”
If Rosemond is a criminal, his crime is that he challenges contemporary orthodoxy. In modern childrearing, the orthodoxy says be gentle. Very, very gentle. Never injure a child’s psyche. Never stifle creativity, even if creativity prompts a child to whoop and holler around the house like a wild man. Orthodoxy says engage the child, always ask his or her preference, and offer many options, even at meal time. And always consult.
Example: “Johnny, it’s bed time. You must go, now, OKAY?” Actually, orthodoxy says string it out: “OKAAAAAY?” so that Johnny will have plenty of time to perhaps, maybe, possibly, hopefully consider obeying. If you think I’m attempting cute exaggeration, visit your city or county park playground.
Rosemond is right. America has become one nation under therapy. Psychology has become the plan of salvation. The triumph of therapy has led to the illness excuse. All of us, especially our children, are sick with something or another. Although almost all children need some occasional shock and awe from Mom or Dad, modern child psychology has frightened many parents away from delivering it.
Every philosopher from Socrates to the comedic Will Rogers attributed bad conduct to flawed character and bad values that need correction. Modern psychology, which Rosemond resists, attributes it to disorders and syndromes, all of which, of course, need medication or treatment.
The psychologists on the Board of Examiners want to shut down an advice columnist for giving advice. Of psychologist John Rosemond, whose case is pending, I for one can only say may his tribe increase.
Roger Hines of Kennesaw is a retired high school teacher and former state legislator.