bad children

 Last week, on May 25, the Reno Gazette Journal ran a column by a family therapist, Dr. John Rosemond, the title of which was CHILDREN ARE BAD, AND OUR JOB IS TO FIX THEM. His ideas about child-rearing, as stated in his article, made my blood boil. So I wrote and submitted a response. It appeared in today’s paper (June 1, 2016).

In his column he said such things as:

Children are bad…

…Am I correct?

…Are children, by nature, bad? Yes, they are…

…As soon as a child begins to develop language, he begins to lie, as in “I didn’t do it!” He sees something he wants and commits assault to get it. He is irrationally selfish. He steals.

…One does not have to teach children to be bad, they arrive already possessing of that disposition.

…one can, hopefully, overrule MotherFather Nature and transform the little criminal into a pro-social human …

…In a sense, proper parenting is the act of making lemonade out of lemons.


Here’s my response:


by Carol Purroy

“Children are bad, and our job is to fix them” was the headline of a recent column (May 25) by family psychologist John Rosemond. He said that all children are, by nature, “bad.” They lie and steal, and are irrationally selfish. It’s true, they do — but I take umbrage with his terminology.

Small children who behave this way are not “bad.”

They are merely exhibiting the basic primal stage of development. That’s normal. They are not broken. We do not have to “fix” them. As children grow they must learn to “play well with others” and our job is to teach and guide them through each stage on into adulthood.

If we perceive a child as “bad” we respond to his unacceptable behaviors very differently than if we his actions as normal for that stage of development. We we respond with disapproval. We punish him. Some people might take Rosemond’s article on child-rearing to mean that in order to “fix” a child we must beat the “bad” out of him (lovingly, of course). That’s the old “this hurts me more than it hurts you” baloney.

If, on the other hand, we perceive our young child’s self-centered actions as natural for that stage of development, we’re liable to respond to the behavior, rather than to her as a bad child. Label the deed, not the doer. That can make all the difference in how a child perceives him or herself.

Children must be socialized…

to become principled contributors to society. Discipline is, of course, necessary. Children who grow up without it can remain in that early stage of development, to the detriment of themselves and society. Discipline, however, means different things.

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines “discipline” as:

  • Punishment
  • Training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character
  • Control gained by enforcing obedience or order.

Parents and the broader society punish those we perceive as “bad.” We gain control over them by enforcing obedience and order. If, however, we view someone as an “OK person” who engaged in undesirable behavior, we’re more likely to correct, mold and perfect their mental faculties and/or moral character.

p.s: I am not a “30-something-year-old.” I am an 80-year-old woman who raised three sons with unconditional love and a firm hand. Not for one minute did I ever consider my children “bad” or as beings who needed “fixing” — and guess what, they turned out great.


I ran out of space, but I’d have liked to also say that “proper parenting” according to Rosemond apparently means twisting and squeezing children until all their juice — their very essence — is gone.

What’s your opinion?

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