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Rosemond: ‘The Doctor’ comes under readers’ fire

POSTED: June 28, 2009 9:30 p.m.

Here’s more material that just arrived in the mailroom at the top-secret underground location of the Rosemond One-World Flawless Parenting Headquarters.

Reader Objects to My Favorite Therapist: A woman who preferred not to be identified believes that I am wrong to invent “The Doctor” as a way of persuading children to abandon bad behaviors. (One might recall in a column of two weeks past, a mother testified my favorite therapist cured, in one night, bedtime anxieties in her 6-year-old.) Said reader believes this constitutes “a retreat from putting the responsibility for discipline on parents, where it belongs, but also casts the doctor as a mean, unpleasant person,” thus setting up physicians as people to be “disliked and even feared.” A legitimate concern, but as it turns out, unfounded. Never have I received a letter from a physician objecting to this use of their reputation, and the ones I’ve talked with about it approve wholeheartedly. Nor has any parent ever reported, in the more than ten years since I invented my imaginary friend, a negative reaction from a child. I also assert that my phantasm has a much higher cure rate than most flesh-and-blood therapists.

The Family Bed, Revisited: Lots of folks have responded, pro and con, to a recent article in which I went where many husbands are afraid to go: I said that the so-called “family bed” is a poor substitute for a healthy marriage. Several respondents defensively pointed out that in most Third World countries, most families have one bed — therefore, a “family bed.” Ah, but that compares apples to oranges. I certainly agree that such togetherness is preferable to some members of the family sleeping on dirt, hard floors or outside where they might be vulnerable to prowling beasts. Making the point, one woman wrote that in a remote and very poor village in which she briefly lived in Guatemala, parents shared beds with their kids. But as soon as these parents came into sufficient funds, they added on to their small houses. The first addition, always, was a second bedroom. Contrary to the claims of its proponents — chiefly Dr. William Sears, author of The Natural Baby — family co-sleeping is not a more “natural” way of sleeping. It is unnatural, and people who are forced to do so correct the situation as soon as they are able.

Is Rosemond a Loose Cannon? A reader accuses me of giving advice that is outside the mainstream of my profession, coming close to saying that I am a loose, and therefore dangerous, cannon. Right, and wrong. I am a psychologist who does not share a mainstream psychological point of view when it comes to children, families, discipline, parenting, behavior (bad or good), emotional issues, the diagnosis of mental disorders or even the nature of human beings. The psychological point of view is progressive, ever-changing (some would claim it is improving). My point of view is traditional, which is to say I do not believe there is anything new under the sun. I also pull no punches. I tell people what I think they need to hear, whether they want to hear it or not; to which someone might rejoin that it is egocentric of me to think that I know what people need to hear. Indeed, and that is why I voluntarily submit ever single one of my columns for review by another psychologist and a pediatrician, both of whom possess impeccable credentials.

If one or both of them raises serious questions concerning something I have written, I either re-write it until it meets their approval or dispose of it. A recent column in which I commented on a controversial childhood behavior disorder was recently deep-sixed for that very reason. However, the mere fact that a column will raise hackles does not render it unsuitable for publication.
Heretic, yes. Loose cannon, no.

John Rosemond is a family psychologist. Questions of general interest may be sent to Affirmative Parenting, c/o The Times, 345 Green St. NW, Gainesville, GA 30503.



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