Jason B. Ladd

Ask the Questions. Embrace the Answers. Make the Leap.

Postmodern Psychological Parenting: Why We are Failing Our Children

Parenting by the book
Postmodern Psychological Parenting is the reason parents today are exhausted, confused, and failing their children. Parenting by the book is the key to raising happy and healthy children. The question is, which book?

There are plenty to choose from. They are filled with theories and suggestions. All of them sound reasonable, and none of them work.

Almost.

Do you feel like you are having more trouble raising your children today than your parents seemed to have raising you? Are you exhausted? Frustrated? Overwhelmed?

Just one generation ago, things seemed to be different. Children respected their parents, they behaved, and they feared the consequences of their misbehavior.

Today children fight against their parents, continually test their limits, and repeat their unruly antics only to end up diagnosed, medicated, and labeled for life.

What happened?

Author and psychologist John Rosemond explains how the train was derailed in his book Parenting by the Book: Biblical Wisdom for Raising Your Child. Rosemond concludes that the problem is Postmodern Psychological Parenting.

Postmodern Psychological Parenting

Rosemond explains the precursor to the Postmodern Psychological Parenting movement by describing how since the late 1960s:

“. . . the American Psychological Association was hijacked by secular progressives who were focused more on advancing humanist ideology than advancing the human condition.” 1

Rosemond emphasizes that:

Postmodern Psychological Parenting “has never worked, is not working, and will never work, no matter how diligently anyone works at it.”2

By now you would probably like to know if you have been beguiled by Postmodern Psychological Parenting. First, let me show you some signs in the Jeff Foxworthian style of “if you. . . you might”:

Signs of Postmodern Psychological Parenting

  • If you see a misbehaving child as a victim instead of a perpetrator. . . you might be using Postmodern Psychological Parenting
  • If you think punishment is psychologically damaging. . . you might be using Postmodern Psychological Parenting
  • If you think children are fundamentally good. . . you might be using Postmodern Psychological Parenting
  • If you believe in focusing on your child’s self-esteem. . . you might be using Postmodern Psychological Parenting
  • If you are trying to interpret bad behavior instead of correct it. . . you might be using Postmodern Psychological Parenting
  • If you continue to use “time out” despite its failure to produce results. . . you might be using Postmodern Psychological Parenting

Don’t be surprised if you connect with these ideas. After all, they are contrary to everything you’ve been conditioned to believe. You’ve been taught for five decades to trust in their effectiveness. But these beliefs are the reason many parents today are failing. In his book, Rosemond explains why:

  • Self-esteem is bad (but self-respect is good)
  • Behavior modification doesn’t work (but discipline does)
  • Interpreting misbehavior is ineffectual (but correcting it is effective)
  • Over-concern over feelings is detrimental (but hurt feelings and guilt are necessary)

What is Postmodern Psychological Parenting?

Rosemond describes Postmodern Psychological Parenting as:

“. . . an anamolous hybrid of three historically antagonistic schools of psychological thought: Freudian, humanist, and behavioral.”3

Rosemond rejects:

  • Freudian psychological determinism (the notion that human behavior is shaped by early childhood experiences)
  • Humanist ideas that children are fundamentally good and the desirability of self esteem
  • Behavior school of thought which posits that behavior modification works equally well on humans as it does on animals4

What is the road ahead?

The Road Ahead

The bad news is that the road ahead leads to more heartache, anguish, and frustration. Progressivism fails when we fail to realize that new ideas are frequently worse than old ones.

Without a steer away from the Postmodern Psychological Parenting, we will continue to fail our children. We will continue to raise spoiled brats who reject authority, demand entitlements, and ultimately drain, rather than contribute to society.

The good news is that there is a better way.

The Road Behind

Bad things happen when we lose what is good and true. During the time of the divided kingdom in Israel, the people of Judah alternately suffered at the hand of leaders who were either devoted to the ways of the Lord, or did evil in the eyes of the Lord.

King Jehoshaphat’s heart was devoted to the ways of The Lord, and he walked in the ways David and his father Asa had followed. During his reign, he sent his officials and priests throughout the towns to teach, taking with them the Book of the Law of The Lord.

The following successors, Jehoram, Ahaziah, and Athalia, did evil in the eyes of The Lord, as did many others that followed.

But the tide turned once more, and Josiah walked again in the ways of The Lord.

And then a curious thing happens in 2 Chronicles 34:14:

  • The Book of the Law is Found

“While they were bringing out the money that had been taken into the temple of the Lord, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the Lord that had been given through Moses” (NIV).

The implication is that the book was lost, presumably for a long while. When the Kings of Judah lived without the word of God, chaos ensued. The book was eventually found in a place which must not have been frequented: the Temple of The Lord.

We don’t need therapists. We need Biblical truth.

If we walk in the ways of The Lord and teach our children to do the same, you will see the folly in Postmodern Psychological Parenting, and you will be free to:

  • Stop stressing about self-esteem, and start building self-respect
  • Stop wasting time interpreting behavior and start correcting it
  • Ditch the behavior modification and get cracking on the discipline
  • Administer healthy doses of guilt (to instill appropriate feelings of shame)

Let’s stop failing our children with a failed Freudian experiment.

1 John Rosemond, Parenting By the Book: Biblical Wisdom for Raising Your Child (New York: Howard Books, 2007), 2.
2 Ibid., 25.
3 Ibid., 31.
4 Ibid., 31-32.

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About Jason B. Ladd

Jason is an author, speaker, Marine, and father of seven. He has flown the F/A-18 Hornet as a Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1) Instructor Pilot and the F-16 as an Instructor Pilot. His award-winning book One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview has been optioned for film adaptation. He is represented by Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Agency.

9 Replies

  1. Carmelita Spats

    We don’t need therapists, we need Biblical truthiness.

    1. Carmelita, Unfortunately your comment in response to my brief on Postmodern Psychological Parenting had no value other than allowing your to vent your opposition to Christianity. I have removed all but your last comment. NOTE TO READERS: Carmelita’s comment is to be taken with the highest tone of sarcasm, and please note that she is rolling on the floor laughing her buttocks off in the process. If you would like to contribute to FIGHTER FAITH in the future, please contribute in a constructive manner.

  2. I agree. I remember watching a Christian video called “Time Changer” whose theme suggests what can happen when good morals are taught without a basis or foundation. As we know, without a standard of measure, everything is relative and, therefore, no one can say what is right and what is wrong. God’s Word, however, is the foundation upon which good moral standards are based. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…”

    I would also point out that discipline doesn’t necessarily involved punishment, such as a spanking, unless it is used to correct willful disobedience. Think of how we discipline ourselves, and consider that our children should be our primary disciples. Too often we think of discipline as punishment and discipleship as something we do as part of a church program, using a curriculum, but that is not how the Bible portrays it. We parents/grandparents are supposed to be training them to become mature adults, but it takes time, and I’m afraid that parents who are failing their children are also not taking the time needed to train them.

    1. All wonderful points. In Malcom Gladwell’s book David and Goliath, he talks about the necessity of legitimacy for our discipline/instruction to be taken to heart. They must know how much we care.

  3. I couldn’t agree with you more. Well put.

  4. I have known about this book for years. As a thoroughly postmodern reader and a parent, I can’t say I completely agree with Rosemonds perspective. I won’t say that he is wrong on any of his points in particular — he’s much more qualified than I am. However, Rosemond seems to pit biblical parenting against postmodernism, armed with concepts firmly rooted in modernism. And that is hugely problematic.

    For example, this article starts with Rosemond’s claim that the APA was hijacked by postmodernists who were more concerned with advancing humanist philosophy than the human condition. But as someone who grew up in the 1990s, I am more repulsed by *modernist* philosophy that promoted humanist philosophy. My problem with Rosemond’s claims is that they claim the Bible is opposed to postmodernism, which I don’t believe is true. The Bible is certainly opposed to some elements of postmodernism, but there are plenty areas where postmodernism is superior to modernism, biblically speaking.

    The major problem is probably the oversimplification of postmodernism. Rosemond seems to dismiss postmodernism as a set of convictions, similar to complimentarianism, for example. If it were so then we would be able to treat it as such, presenting the flaws of egalitarianism, against the arguments for complimentarianism, and one would be forced to choose between the two. But one cannot be convinced to “become” modern or postmodern. Postmodernism is the culture in which we have grown up; we never made a decision to be postmodern, and we therefore cannot simply choose to discard it the way we would a bad idea. It is the method by which we make conclusions about everything around us.

    So, I don’t believe postmodernism is the culprit for bad parenting; in fact, I am more inclined to see modernism as a larger culprit, since it was still the prevailing worldview of many of our parents. Modernism produced us; in a way, our shortcomings are a result of modernism.

    I do believe people can apply biblical truth to their lives and change their outlook to reflect that of Christ. A postmodern is neither more nor less opposed to Christ than a modern — postmoderns and moderns alike are fallen and both need to address the underlying problem of a heart opposed to God.

    1. Jonathan, thank you for adding to the discussion. I appreciate you giving us some insight to the influence of modernism on parenting today. We’ve now covered moth modernism and post-modernism. Is there an -ism we can identify which has positively influenced how parents shoudl raise their children?

      1. That’s a good question. I believe all -isms bring both good and bad elements. In postmodernist culture, the family is much more open and accessible than it was in modernism, which creates many more opportunities for the gospel to infiltrate a family. People are less likely to hide behind empty religious rituals, as everything — especially cultural roles and stereotypes — is questioned. This means that people can really connect with a search for truth. Postmoderns can really respect someone who is searching for truth, regardless of the convictions they come to. This allows us to raise children who know how to question the world around them and look for the truth in the midst of so many lies.

        There are many shortcomings of postmodernism. Perhaps the greatest is in its widely-accepted definition: the wholesale rejection of all meta-narratives. So, there are detrimental characteristics.

        My main gripe was that a parent today can’t just decide to stop being postmodern, just as they can’t decide whether to be American or English or French. Postmodernism is the culture in which we have grown up, and to a great extent, it is the way we see things, whether we like it or not.

        The only place to find truth is in Jesus, and only through identifying with him can we become like him in our quest to raise our children.

        1. Well said. I will only add that although postmoderns respect the search for truth, their rejection of meta-narratives makes them skeptical of anyone claiming to have found it. Thank you for your well thought out input!