Rosemond vs. Gordon and Briggs
John Rosemond, Thomas Gordon, and Dorothy Briggs are all parenting experts. To fully understand Rosemond’s parenting philosophy, you’d best channel your Great Grandmother, open the Good Book, and “Keep it Simple, Stupid” (KISS).
To best understand Gordon and Briggs, you’ll need to channel Freud, open Toward Soviet America, and let your kids choose their favorite sugary cereal, hoping the prize inside is a Decoder Ring.
In the 1960s, psychologist Thomas Gordon, and in the 1970s, his protégé, family counselor Dorothy Briggs, espoused that parents should relinquish all power over their children, treat them as equals, and make sure they have high self-esteem. Growing out of this nouveau way of parenting, children have taken center stage, and parents, especially mothers, have been revolving around them like whirling dervishes ever since.
Compare that parenting philosophy with Rosemond’s and you would think they were talking about two entirely different species. Rosemond says, “Children need two ‘L’ words: Love and Leadership.” He contends parents must claim the legitimacy of their parenting authority over their children. He believes “Children should look up to adults and want to aspire to be adults. Our job is to lift them up. They should know we breathe a different atmosphere.” He espouses that character building, not self-esteem, should be the goal, and that “the family should be centered around a stable marriage or a content, well-rounded single parent.”
Rosemond’s parenting philosophy is traditional and biblically based. “Retro parenting” is what he calls it because it is the way America parented up until the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, whether a family was religious or secular. Parents were raising children who looked up to and respected adult authority, were obedient to adult leadership, and loyal to his or her parents’ values.
According to Gordon and Briggs, traditional parenting is the problem. They believe parents have been doing it all wrong for thousands of years. In Gordon’s book, Parent Effectiveness Training, he writes, “Parents today rely almost universally on the same methods of raising children and dealing with problems in their families that were used by their own parents, by their parents’ parents, by their grandparents’ parents. Unlike almost all other institutions of society, the parent-child relationship seems to have remained unchanged. Parents depend on methods used two thousand years ago!”
There are three philosophies that are the basis for what Gordon and Briggs believe:
- Psychological Determinism
- Behavior Modification
I will take each philosophy in turn:
1) Psychological determinism
This is one of the biggest differences between Rosemond and Gordon and Briggs. Rosemond says, “Psychology proposes that parenting determines how a child behaves and ultimately turns out—in other words, that parenting produces the child.”
Rosemond states that common sense tells us this is not true—kids raised in good families can turn out to be bad apples and vice versa.
In Rosemond’s book, The Well-Behaved Child, he cannot emphasize the following enough: “...Parenting does not produce the child! Parenting is an influence. But in the final analysis, your child takes your influence and—read this carefully—he decides what he’s going to do with it. It’s all about free will, the ability to choose what the serpent tells us to do over what God tells us to do.”
Since Gordon and Briggs believe that “parenting produces the child,” they promote that parents should be more like psychologists, and facilitate their child’s growth through psychological methods such as decoding, active listening, et al. Conversely, this is why Rosemond uses the term “Post Psychological Parenting.” One of the cornerstones of Rosemond’s philosophy is that “the child produces the child.”
Gordon and Briggs advocate that parents should give up their parental power, because, as they believe, parental power has caused the most psychological harm to children, and corporal punishment the ultimate use of that power and the root of all evil in the parent/child relationship. Gordon says that families should cease being autocratic and become democratic. In Your Child’s Self-Esteem, Briggs’ warned that the workings of democracy in government would have little meaning to a child unless he “feels the daily benefits of it at home.” She went on to write “Discipline is democratic when parents share power, when adults and children are working together to establish rules that protect the rights of all.”
Gordon and Briggs equate any power over children with authoritarian regimes. Compare this to Rosemond’s distinction between being authoritarian and authoritative.
In Rosemond’s book, New Parent Power, he writes, “A benevolent dictatorship is a form of family government in which parents act on the recognition that their most fundamental obligation is to provide a balance of love (benevolence) and authority (dictation) to their children. This is not tyranny. Benevolent dictators are authoritative, not authoritarian. They do not demand unquestioning obedience. Quite the contrary, they encourage discussion (as opposed to argument), but they make the final decisions. They create rules that are fair and enforce them firmly but gently. Benevolent dictators don’t derive sadistic pleasure out of bossing children around.”
The belief that children are fundamentally good led Gordon & Briggs (“G&B”) to state that children, at very young ages, want to be considerate of their parents needs. This is evident in Gordon’s book, Parent Effectiveness Training. He writes, “…the no-lose Method lll approach communicates to kids that parents think their needs are important too, and that the kids can be trusted to be considerate of parental needs in return.” Thus, Gordon and Briggs believe children can be reasoned with. They advocate that children don’t choose to misbehave rather they are caused to misbehave because of pathologies within the family.
Rosemond believes children are fundamentally bad. In The Well-Behaved Child, he writes, “children misbehave because they are bad, and the sooner parents understand and accept this, the better for them and the better also for their children.” Rosemond states that children cannot be reasoned with. “The truth is they cannot be, period. The phrase, ‘reasoning with a child’ is an oxymoron, which means only morons believe it is possible. When a child is old enough to be successfully reasoned with, he is no longer a child.”
Dorothy Briggs fervently believes that high self-esteem is the most important attribute you can give your child. She defines self-esteem as, “...how a person feels about himself. It is his over-all judgment of himself—how much he likes his particular person.” In Your Child’s Self-Esteem, Briggs writes, ”If your child has high self-esteem, he has it made.” Briggs equates self-esteem with self-respect.
Rosemond believes one can only gain self-respect by respecting others. I believe Rosemond would say self-esteem is not only the last thing your child needs, but also the worst thing you can give him.
In The Well-Behaved Child Rosemond writes, “I will propose that culture is strengthened not by people with high self-esteem for themselves, but by people who pay attention to and look for opportunities to serve others. Agree? Of course you do! ‘But John!’ someone may protest, ‘I want my child to possess self-confidence!’ Let us not confuse our terms here. The research has found that these terms are not synonymous. In fact, there is no evidence that people who are humble and modest lack the belief that they are capable of dealing adequately with life’s challenges. But there is lots and lots of evidence to the effect that people with high self-esteem consistently overestimate their abilities. For this reason, people with high self-esteem are more likely to experience disappointment and feelings of failure than people who are humble and modest.”
3) Behavior Modification:
Gordon and Briggs hold the belief that behavior modification works as well on human beings as it does on animals.
Following is a profound difference between their philosophies:
In Parenting by The Book, Rosemond writes, “With a dog, correct consequences will result in correct behavior, but all bets are off with a human being. If a dog does the wrong thing, and its trainer does the right thing, the dog will stop doing the wrong thing. But if a child does the wrong thing, and his parents do the right thing, the child may keep right on doing the wrong thing. A dog does not posses free will; a child does. This means a child will only change his behavior if he chooses to do so. A persuasive enough consequence may promote the right choice, but because the child is a human, not an animal, there are no guarantees. Correct consequences change the behavior of a dog. Correct choices change the behavior of a human being.”
Gordon believes behavior modification works, but does not recommend it because it’s just too difficult for parents to actually execute. In Parent Effectiveness Training he writes, “Reward and punishment are seldom effective in teaching complex behaviors, except by using very complex and time-consuming ‘reinforcement’ methods. True, psychologists have succeeded in teaching chickens to play ping-pong and pigeons to guide missiles, yet such achievements require amazingly difficult and time-consuming training conducted under the most controlled conditions.” He goes on to write, “Teaching animals or children to perform complex acts through reward and punishment is not only a specialty of its own, requiring extensive knowledge and patience, but what is far more important to us is this: the skilled circus animal trainer and the experimental psychologist are not very good models for parents to copy in training their own children to behave as mothers and fathers would like.”
That said, Rosemond believes that even though behavior modification doesn’t work with children, parents still need to teach their kids that bad behavior will result in undesirable consequences. Rosemond says, “When a child does something bad, the child should feel bad about it.”
In Parenting by The Book, Rosemond writes, “So what should parents do when consequences have ‘failed,’ when they have done the right thing and their child keeps right on doing the wrong thing? They should keep doing the right thing—they should keep right on delivering consequences. They should never give up the good fight. The fact that the child doesn’t keep learning his lesson doesn’t mean that his parents are doing something wrong, or that the child is suffering from some psychological or organic malfunction that prevents him from learning his lesson. It only says that the child is what I call an ‘uppercase rebel,’ as in REBEL.”
[Note] It is very important that the reader understand Rosemond’s total belief about punishment. In The Well-Behaved Child, he writes: “It needs to be said that effective punishment can only be done out of love. A child who is not completely secure in the knowledge and feeling that his parents love him without reservation will not accept their punishment.”
Regarding punishment, Gordon has this to say: “If the reader is thinking that the parents‘ power to reward and punish (or to promise reward and threaten punishment) looks like an effective way of controlling children, she will be right in one sense, and very wrong in another. The use of parental authority (or power), seemingly effective under certain conditions, is quite ineffective under other conditions. Many, if not most, of these side effects are unfortunate. Children often become cowed, fearful, and nervous as a result of ‘obedience training,’ often turn on their trainers with hostility and vengeance; and often break down physically or emotionally under the stress of trying to learn behavior that is either difficult or unpleasant for them. The use of power can produce many harmful effects as well as risks for the trainer of animals—or children.”
He is referring to spanking, which G&B equate with child abuse. In Your Child’s Self-Esteem, Briggs writes, “Spanking is a physical assault of a bigger person on a smaller one.”
Rosemond states that while traditional parenting included the option to spank, it was rarely utilized by most pre-1960s parents. In The Well-Behaved Child, Rosemond writes ”Many, if not most, people my age will tell you that they can count on one hand the number of times they were spanked as kids. I believe spanking can be a reasonable response to certain outrageous misbehaviors.” Rosemond says that spanking should only be used for major offenses and never as a primary form of discipline, and the more often you spank, the less effective it will be. Spanking should be done only with the bare hand. Before administering a spanking, he tells parents to let their child know why they are getting it but not to lecture. Let the child know that you’re choosing to spank in order to help him remember not to do it again. “This is another way of saying don’t spank in anger.”
Gordon says rewards aren’t effective because their appeal will wear off, and you’ll have to keep upping the ante. Rosemond agrees with this in what he refers to as the “saturation principle.” But here is another major difference in the two philosophies: Rosemond disagrees with rewards because this means, “the parents are taking responsibility for maintaining the child’s performance at adequate levels. As such, the child cannot begin to appreciate the intrinsic value of improving himself.”
Both Rosemond and Gordon & Briggs share some of the same beliefs—however, their reasons for doing so are at polar opposites:
Parents should not hover.
- Gordon and Briggs say you’re sending the child a message that says he is incompetent and, additionally—he may in fact know better than you.
- Rosemond says micro-managers are ineffective and micromanaging does not produce resourceful, responsible children.
Marriage relationship should be primary.
- Gordon and Briggs say you should be looking for love from your spouse and not your children.
- Rosemond says that the marriage anchors the family—and that nothing makes children feel more secure than knowing that their parents’ relationship is solid.
You cannot change your child’s behavior.
- In Parent Effectiveness Training, Gordon writes: “All a parent can do is to try to influence by being a model, being an effective consultant, and developing a ‘therapeutic’ relationship with the kids. After all, what else? As I see it, a parent can only accept the fact that she ultimately has no power to prevent such behaviors, if the child is bent on doing them.”
- Compare this to Rosemond who writes in The Well-Behaved Child, “It can’t be said often enough: you cannot change your child’s behavior. You can only bring about circumstances in your child’s life that will cause him to reconsider his behavior and change it himself.”
According to Rosemond, mothers in the good old days were not afraid to “claim their authority over their children,” because they were focused on the long-term goal of raising good citizens, and that discipline was primarily about leadership. Compare this to today’s mother, who is paralyzed to claim her authority because her main goal is to make her child happy. Making a child happy must be done in the moment. Hence, today’s parents are only concerned with short-term goals.
Today’s mothers are scrambling for certain methods that will make their children behave, and when they fail, they feel hopeless and helpless.
Rosemond contends that parenting was once effortless because parents were listening to their hearts, not their heads. They used common sense. Compare this to today's parents, who have allowed psychologists tell them how to raise children. Rosemond says today’s mothers are exasperated, and say parenting is the hardest thing they’ve ever done in their lives because they are thinking psychologically.
John Rosemond, a clinical psychologist himself, believes that psychological parenting, starting with Freud and ushered into our society and homes by psychologists such as Thomas Gordon and Dorothy Briggs, has “been nothing short of disastrous.”
In a nutshell, Rosemond’s parenting philosophy is about loving and leading children to do good.
Gordon and Briggs’ parenting philosophy is about facilitating children to feel good.