Review: "Parenting by the Book" by John Rosemond

Picture 2I read a lot of books. I recommend very few of them. But John Rosemond’s Parenting by the Book may be one of the most important books written in the last decade. It is a must-read for every parent, grandparent, and teacher. Yes, it’s that good. Let me explain why.

Rosemond is a well-known family psychologist who specializes in parenting issues. He has authored eleven bestselling books on parenting and family, writes a weekly syndicated newspaper column, and is one of the most sought-after speakers in his field. I got his latest book from my friend Victoria, who recognized Rosemond’s name from her days as a public-school teacher.

Rosemond built his career without any regard for Scripture. But nine years ago, he became a born-again Christian. He writes: “I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior in my early fifties… I began reading Scripture… [And I realized] I have never had an original idea concerning the raising of children. Even when I thought I was coming up with original ideas, I was not.” This book is Rosemond’s magnum opus – his crystallization of his prior thought under the authority and reality of the Bible.

Why do I say this is one of the most important books written in my lifetime? Because of its credibility and focus. There are other good books on parenting – and some, in fact, which I think are more gospel-centered than Rosemond’s. But there is none that speaks more clearly or more potently against our culture’s idolatry of psychology. Speaking as an insider, Rosemond shows how almost all modern parenting techniques are built on decades-old psychological assumptions which have proven false both academically and pragmatically. He argues winsomely and factually for the truth of a biblical/traditional understanding of parenting – and in the process, takes a well-researched sledgehammer to the presuppositions of secular parenting theories.

Until you read Rosemond’s book, you probably won’t realize the extent to which postmodern psychotherapy is the air we breathe. Even many Christian parents have bought into its assumptions and techniques. Rosemond traces its historical roots, deconstructs its key thinkers, and offers a refreshing, common-sense critique rooted in biblical wisdom. Here’s a sample:

The traditional point of view holds that children are fundamentally bad and in need of rehabilitation; the nouveau point of view holds that children are fundamentally good. Supposedly, children no longer do bad things intentionally; they just make errors in judgment. The term most often used today is “bad choices”… Because malevolent motive is absent, punishment is not warranted. Besides, punishment damages self-esteem, or so the new parenting elite warns… Whereas the old way enforced responsibility on the child for his behavior, the new way neatly absolves him of that responsibility. The misbehaving child, once a perpetrator, has become a victim, in need of therapy or drugs or both.

…Enough time has passed to determine whether this grand social experiment is working or not. Is it? One single fact answers the question: Since 1965, when postmodern psychological parenting began gaining a toehold in our culture, every single indicator of positive well-being in America’s children has been in a state of precipitous decline… The per-capita rate of child and teen depression has increased at least fivefold since 1965. In just one fifteen-year period, from 1980 to 1995, the suicide rate for boys ages ten to fourteen almost doubled.

The emperor has no clothes – and Rosemond is willing to say so.

Rosemond’s book isn’t flawless. It should be read with wisdom and discretion. Some readers won’t love his writing style, and others will find his black-and-white, advice-columnist categories a little too simple. Most importantly, Rosemond isn’t God, so parents shouldn’t hold his counsel higher than that of the Bible. Those looking for cut-and-paste parenting advice will tend to apply Rosemond’s instruction woodenly and be disappointed, but discerning readers will find his book full of “a-ha” moments.

For all of you whose non-Christian family members don’t “get” your parenting style… for you public-school teachers who want to better understand the behavior problems in the kids you’re teaching… for you first-generation Christian parents who are trying to figure out how to raise kids biblically… for you moms who have challenging kids (especially defiant toddlers)… this is a must-read book. And it’s a book you can give to unbelievers who might not read a “Christian” book on parenting, but who would listen to a renowned psychologist. As Rosemond says (demonstrating a well nuanced understanding of vocation), “I am not a Christian psychologist. I am a Christian who holds a license to practice psychology.”

This is a crucial book for our cultural moment. Get a copy.


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  1. I couldn’t agree more. John Rosemond has been my “go-to” guy for the past 11 years. He seemed to be the one voice in wilderness that was reinforcing what I felt in my gut was the right thing to do with my kids. I haven’t picked this book up yet, but will get to Amazon before the day is over.

    His book “Ending the Homework Hassle,” was a much-needed resource for this beleaguered mom.

  2. Thanks Bob, this looks like a good read. As a public school teacher I find myself always asking questions about kids with behavior disorders. Why do they act this way? How should I respond to them? My initial thought is that they are not raised in a Christian home, so why should I expect them to act any differently? I guess my biggest question is how can I respond to them by showing the love of Jesus, and instilling correct discipline at the same time (without yelling or sounding mean)? I guess as we have been going through the gospel identity and rhythm series this has been on my mind. Not to change the subject of the post, but does anyone have any thoughts?


  3. I’ll definitely check it out.

    I see this notion that secular psychology has all the answers on a daily basis in the ER. Instead of helping they introduce pills (that do have a place in certain cases) promising false hope (the pill becomes the patients false god that they look to for anything that happens in life that they can’t cope with) and change their meds everytime they struggle with life. This is being adopted at earlier and earlier ages now.

    I have had many wonderful opportunities to counsel folks on parenting throughout my career and it seems that some people just need a little push in the right direction.

  4. I am going to have to check out this book. I just finished reading Janis Gioia’s latest book
    “The Wolf Pack Classroom Management Plan” which I think is a great life skills book and also one that every parent and teacher should read. I can never get enough parenting advice though and feel that I could probably get some great advice from John’s book and implement it into the ideas that I gained from the Wolf Pack plan. Thank you for the great tip!

  5. Biblical centered, gospel centered should be first and foremost in teaching children by Christian parents. Scripture should be considered first not a throwback to granny’s wisdom or a particular parenting ‘style’ If you seek truth in the discipline (training, teaching, leading not punishing) of your children, read a strong scripture based book, Heartfelt Discipline – Following God’s Path to the Heart of Your Child by Clay Clarkson. Your heart will be changed as you learn the truth of scripture and how it relates to your child.

  6. Biblical and Gospel centered should be first and foremost as Christian parents teach their children. Learning how to discipline (train, teach, lead not punish) children should begin with scripture, not a return to granny’s wisdom and parenting styles of the 1950’s. If you seek truth in teaching your children, Heartfelt Discipline-Following God’s Path to the Heart of Your Child by Clay Clarkson. He’s not a well known psychologist but a well educated man who follows God whole heartedly. Reach the heart of your child. This is crucial in changing the culture.

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