“Now, Sofia, we’re going to meet with Dr. Rosemond, and I need you to be a good girl.”
Those were my instructions to my daughter, Sofia, 2 1/2, on our way to an interview with John Rosemond, the nationally known parenting expert and columnist in The Times who spoke on Thursday night at Lakewood Baptist in Gainesville.
As a parent, I was curious — were my parenting skills up to par? Am I raising a good kid? Will she turn out OK?
Admittedly, I don’t often obsess about these questions. But with the chance to sit down face-to-face with the good doctor, I thought perhaps this is a chance to test my parenting skills in front of an expert.
So Sofia and I trotted into Lakewood Baptist before the Thursday evening speech and sat down. When Rosemond arrived, he greeted Sofia and she shyly smiled.
OK, so far so good. She woke up screaming that morning, so I was bracing myself for some more, or, at least, nonstop “Mommymommymommymommy...”
I set my voice recorder on my lap to start recording the conversation. Rosemond noted it.
“Do you want to put it here?” he asked, pointing to the coffee table.
“No, she’ll probably grab it,” I said, motioning to Sofia who was playing with the dots on the pillow in the chair next to me. “No she won’t, if I tell her not to,” he countered.
Touché, parenting expert. Note that after placing the recorder on the table, Sofia ignored it.
Parents today are bombarded with advice, books and TV shows geared toward the “right” way to raise a child. But is there any way that’s better than the other?
“I do believe in right and wrong, and I do believe there’s a right way to raise a child,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s a methodology, it’s a point of view. There’s a correct point of view.”
In the 1960s and ’70s, he said, society got off track when it came to raising a child. We essentially rejected the way we were raised for all sorts of explanations for how and why things happen. That’s where we’re off track, Rosemond said.
As he spoke, Sofia quietly climbed the arm of my chair. My thoughts became: “Oh no, what if she falls?”
By asking therapists “How can I fix this behavior,” Rosemond continued, what we really want is “some technology, some strategy, some method. The problems in American parenting are not going to be solved with methods and technologies and strategies.”
Believe it or not, fellow parents, we’re all thinking about this way too much.
And as Rosemond began to describe how parents, and especially moms, are slowly making themselves crazy trying to schedule activities and create miniature overachivers without ruining their self-esteem, I realized Sofia was still sitting next to me, now playing with the zipper on the pillow.
While I was stressing over whether or not she would “behave,” turns out all she needed was a simple toy and she would keep herself entertained. She didn’t need constant encouragement from me to keep her occupied.
“The more you think about something, the less natural your behavior will be, because you’re constantly judging yourself and trying to live up to some standard you’ve read in a book or a magazine or a newspaper column,” he said. “What we need to do is stop thinking so much about raising our children and let the naturalness emerge.
“It really is a natural thing.”
And as we said our goodbyes, with Sofia now enthusiastically calling out “Bye!” as Rosemond walked away, I realized I had made a whole big fuss over pretty much nothing.
Now, to apply that in every situation.