By William Kincaid
NEW BREMEN -- In the 1950s, a simple, yet powerful scowl from a parent many times was all it took for an unruly child to snap back into line, knowing well the implication of "the look."
What has happened to the contemporary American parent and the legions of out-of-control and chemically imbalanced children?
This was the question posed by nationally-known family psychologist and best selling author John Rosemond to many parents attending his Wednesday night presentation at New Bremen High School.
Before the 1960s, Rosemond said parents followed a singular set of fundamental truths that were unwavering in western society for thousands of years -- the Bible.
Today's parents, Rosemond said, now follow the psychological paradigm of the 1960s and one of its central features that high self-esteem is a good and desirable trait to develop in a child. According to Rosemond, this is not true and is responsible for many of the parenting problems today.
"High self-esteem is not a good thing," he said. "People with high self-esteem ... have low self-control. Jesus did not say 'blessed are those who think highly of themselves.' "
Rosemond said children with high self-esteem are not a positive thing for the community, the school or the culture. Although these children may be "good-time Charlies" and gregarious individuals when things are going their way, they become "very mean and ugly during bad times," he said.
These people, he said, become angry at those who prevent them from getting what they want.
Spouse and child abusers, Rosemond pointed out, all have high self-esteem and lash out at their loved ones when they disagree. High self-esteem, he said, is a narcissistic worship of the self.
Rosemond also said behavior modifications -- the system of punishment and rewards -- will not work on people.
"It doesn't work on human beings, period," he said, making the exception of when in institutional settings.
Although electric shocks may work on dogs and rats in scientific experiments, these creatures, he said, have no need to reject authority.
"Human beings are rebellious," he said.
But Americans, he said, are always trying to make behavior modification work and are looking for new methods and techniques, which are really variations on the failed system.
"I'm not giving you the answers you hoped for," Rosemond told the crowd.
Instead of discipline, he said parents should make disciples out of their children. Things such as "the look," body language and verbal tone are all expressions of leadership.
He also stressed the importance of an "economy of words," as opposed to the "psychological yada-yada-yada." In other words, instead of carrying on and asking if the child understands what he has done or taking time-outs or trying to persuade them with rewards of cake or ice cream, parents should tell their children, only once, what to do.
When parents do use punishments, he said they must be grossly out of proportion to the crime, so they can deal with the current wrongdoing and simultaneously teach a lasting lesson. Punishments that don't create discomforting memories -- that are never forgotten by the child -- are useless.
Communication, then consequences and finally consistency are the most important aspects of parenting, he said. He said learn to tell children what to do through proper and powerful leadership -- clear, concise and commanding.
"New methods are not going to solve America's problems," he said. "Parents are hung up on expecting wrong behavior. In parenting, your going to get what you expect."
Rosemond was brought to the area by the 2006 Homan Forum for families.