I have long been a fan of John Rosemond’s parenting advice. As a matter of fact, his book on toddlers got me through some rough spots with both of my children with a shred of my sanity intact. His advice to parents from across the spectrum (biological, adoptive, step, etc.) is that "all children should be raised according to common principles, foremost of which is that parents should balance love and discipline in training children toward becoming productive, responsible members of society."
In short, Dr. Rosemond provides a no-nonsense approach to parenting that puts parents and their children in their proper roles. Parents are to be parents (not friends) to their children, while lovingly disciplining them to become responsible adults.
I was perusing The Stir when I came across a headline reading: Advice Columnist Tells Mom Her Teen NEEDS Her Abuser. I was shocked! What kind of advice columnist would say such a thing? I was compelled to click and read more. I was absolutely floored when I read the article and found out that the ‘advice columnist’ was none other than my go-to parenting expert John Rosemond.
The article was written in response to this column, in which a mom of a 19-year-old woman asks for advice on how to handle her daughter’s boyfriend. The young man (also 19), according to the mother, is likable, not a partier, doesn’t smoke or drink, is serious about his education, and has a rational career plan mapped out. In addition, her daughter is "a responsible, level-headed girl."
The issue seems to be that the boyfriend’s response to most of what the daughter says is "a cut or put-down, a dismissal of her accomplishment or mocking." Mom continues:
Our daughter is an upbeat confident person by nature, but I know a constant stream of negativity will eventually wear down even the most self-assured person. I have tried calling him out on this in a humorous way, to no effect. My husband is restraining himself from giving this kid a poke in the nose! Any suggestions are welcome!
Rosemond’s upsetting response triggered the abuse alert in the mama that wrote the original response to this article:
He’s not into partying, playing video and online games, proving that he can drink more beer than his friends and still remain conscious, and dressing in oversized, ill-fitting clothes that make him look like a six-foot toddler. From your description, he’s a find! Do everything you can to keep him! So he has one annoying habit. OK. Can we all overlook this?
At first glance, I can see where she’s coming from. Abusers often use put-downs to gain emotional control of their victims. But in the context of the entire question from the mother and the response by Rosemond, it’s obvious that this is not the case.
The mother clearly states that the young man is a good guy, and that she and her husband like him. She praises his attributes, which in today’s world of 19-year-old boys are few and far between. She even mentions that the boyfriend’s father has similarly treated his wife and children as such, so the behavior is natural to him. It seems apparent that she does not view this as abusive behavior, but rather as immaturity or stupidity.
Rosemond addresses this issue of putting her daughter down by saying:
This talent for sarcasm is most likely the influence of the “family” sit-coms his generation has consumed, in which the constant stream of put-downs is supposed to be funny (unfortunately, for many Americans, it is). His attempts at bad humor are probably symptomatic of a certain amount of social insecurity. I would forgive him for that. He’s simply got some growing up to do. That’s forgivable, isn’t it?
It is important not to take this advice out of context. If a mother were truly concerned about her daughter being in an abusive relationship, she would not write to a parenting advice columnist famous for doling out tough-love approaches. She would (I hope) call on family, friends, her church, her community, or local law-enforcement to help resolve the issue.
The other key piece of information is that the daughter is 19 years old, and a happy, confident young lady. Likewise, the boyfriend is 19, and has been culturally conditioned by his upbringing and media to put his significant other down as a means of humor. They are both at the beginnings of their adult lives, and they are both going to have to figure out some things on their own. Rosemond concludes his advice by saying:
Lastly, I encourage you to let your daughter deal with this in her own way, in her own time. Growing up for this young man means letting go of this annoying habit. Growing up for your daughter means helping him learn the value of letting go of this annoying habit. In short, stay out of it. And definitely don’t poke him in the nose. That’s against the law.
Rosemond is telling this mom to have faith in the daughter that she raised. She and her boyfriend both have a lot of growing up and learning about relationships left to do. Maybe they’ll be able to work it out together, or maybe they won’t. Maybe the putting-down by the boyfriend is more than the daughter wants to work on in the relationship. Given all of the other positive attributes listed, the daughter might want to have a sit-down conversation with her young man, letting him know that his barbs hurt her.
Who knows? Maybe this daughter has an issue or two herself that her boyfriend would like to address.
*Please, if you know any abused women, help them any way you can. You can Google your city’s name and ‘women’s shelter’ to find local resources to assist you. You can look up churches in the yellow pages, and keep calling them until you hear a friendly voice. There are places to go and people willing to help.
Image via www.CourtneyCarmody/Flickr