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Such was the headline after Dr. John Rosemond told the parents of a 17 year old failing 2 classes and borderline in the others, via his Kentucky Herald Leader column, to strip down the teen’s room to bare, basic essentials, remove any and all electronics and suspend all privileges. After which a fellow psychologist filed a complaint with the state licensing board for said newspaper editorial on the grounds he had not done a proper assessment of the family, yet his column read more like a clinical evaluation. The Kentucky board subsequently presented Dr. Rosemond with a cease and desist order because his privileges to practice psychiatry/psychology or counseling are in the state of North Carolina not Kentucky and requested that, if he intended to continue to write the articles, he stop referring to himself as doctor for that reason. He has since sued his state licensing body countering against the complainant’s argument of protecting the Kentucky consumer with the first amendment and the right of aforementioned consumers to seek advice from whomever they choose. Going on to tell press in his 40 years of providing printed advice in local papers, he had been confronted with questions far more clinical, psychological in nature than this one he considered very routine; even going so far as to give the analogy of a mother in law giving advice to her daughter in law about a toilet training exercise is considered practicing psychology in the state of Kentucky without a license. At the same time reporters and others watching the story fear the decision’s ripple effects of famous shrinks like Dr. Drew, Dr. Laura, Dr. Phil, who have nationally recognized names, programs, but may not have licensing privileges in the state where their shows are produced.

While some may find this a whole lot of nonsense over a man known for his controversial parenting models, parenting tips, who has at least on one occasion called permissive parenting the work of satan, and others are worried about the overreach of the licensing board, their true intentions regarding Rosemond’s comments, the Kentucky licensing panel has a point. A-beginning with here is not a lay person’s advice column dispensed by the average person for the average person, like so many well-known others, thus proving Rosemond’s mother, daughter in law toilet training analogy false, because no one is claiming to be a Dr. or even an expert, rather giving their personal experience on the mater. B-his doctorate is not honorary one or academic in nature; here is a man with the license and privileges to practice psychiatry or psychology, though not in Kentucky state. Continuing, unlike the aforementioned famous Dr.’s sporting TV shows, it should be noted only a limited set of people take seriously, possessing the staff to do research on guests and families appearing, gaining actual knowledge, conducting interviews, bringing in lie detector experts, engaging in surveillance of unruly, troubled teens and ascertain the truth then develop a plan of action, having video proof they have at least done some of their homework, there are not enough details in the original question and no way for Rosemond to do so. Relatedly separating famous shrinks from Rosemond’s work; primarily what we see of Dr. Drew is inside his treatment facility as he conducts rehab services for celebrities and others, translating into a controlled environment monitored by additional staff, not just him, a place where patients or family members have to sign release forms both to be filmed and have that film broadcast. Similarly Dr. Phil’s help almost always extends beyond the 1 hour segments we see, often arranging counseling, drug and a variety of treatments for individuals, families in their home towns/states for life after they leave that stage, sending guests in need to select, top notch treatment, diagnostic centers to handle whatever issue they are having routinely finding hormonal, neurologic imbalances, abnormalities not caught without the correct type of doctor looking at what is going on, doing follow up’s behind the scenes for more than to assuage viewer curiosity on where are they now type programs, but to check up on the health and well-being of said guest. Finally in addition to a legal department for the show ensuring Dr. Phil and so on, are in compliance with medical boards, many times he declares his own disclaimer saying if you see these symptoms, characteristics in yourself, someone you love, get professional help, offers tools on his website with questioners, surveys to see if you likely have problem X and thus need professional treatment. None of which is Rosemond in a position to provide, meaning he should temper his advice to the medium he’s using; unfortunately the exact opposite seems to be happening.

Aside from the impact to “what’s printed in newspapers” and who controls that, independent of the lasting effect on famous shrinks diluting the medical credibility and potency of their advice by being famous in such a way, this doctor’s guidelines to get their 17 year olds grades back on track are ridiculously extreme. Regardless of the fact removing all items from the child’s room except for mattress, sheets, blankets, lighting, basic clothing (at least that’s what one would reasonably assume he meant by stripped down) along with removal of all privileges gives said young person no incentive to change his behavior, motivation to put in the effort to raise his grades, it is more likely to cause him to run away from home, live on the streets than to produce the positive outcome implied. To be observed likewise is the last time Dr. Phil prescribed such action was on a 9 year old boy exhibiting violence, defecation and showing a shocking number of serial killer tendencies. And good luck getting said 17 year old to raise his GPA removing all electronics, including his computer, not only from his room, but assumably his reach, until earns it back considering the sheer number of assignments that require word processing to be acceptable for turn in, how much internet research and PowerPoint presentations are a part of K-12 academics today. Depending on the classes he’s enrolled in spread sheets, graphic design, web creation software may also be required; even though the most sophisticated thing in a classroom the last time Rosemond attended basic education was a chalkboard, taking into account his career and the computer he uses to generate his articles our pudgy, balding gray, middle aged doctor should understand that, walking the parents step by step through limited computer usage for educational purposes, transferring homework files from his laptop to the family computer, how to check a deleted browsing history for rule breaking, how to block gamming and other unwanted sites. Of course that makes the monumental leap he knows anything about the above mentioned items considering the Apple IIE came about right around the time he was getting that doctorate.

In addition to this PHD in psychology/psychiatry’s flabbergasted response to what he calls routine advice vs. far more complex, complicated psychological questions and answers, his seeming tendency to be a little too flippant, a little too blasé, it doesn’t answer one key question; why is the young man failing classes? Is he failing because he is truly spoiled and therefore lazy, as his parents describe the classic underachiever, or is he bored, perhaps gifted and tired of no challenges? Are their problems in the family, has he suffered a recent loss of a friend through death, break-up with a girlfriend, is he struggling with his sexuality, is he being bullied at school by students or staff; is he struggling with something darker, an eating disorder, substance abuse? Not disclosed during the media piece in favor of exploring issues on who controls newspaper content, the first amendment, ripple effects going beyond Kentucky, newspapers in general and not present in the article reasonably for the sake of brevity and column length, is any information about is this a recent onset problem or a chronic problem going back years, and no I don’t mean their self-deprecating description of their parenting style? Rosemond therefore like readers has no idea how he performed at his academic best, was he, once upon a time, a diligent straight A student or did he always struggle with school? The fact that he is 17 and a junior in high school pretty much rules out him having failed any grade levels up to this point, which signals at least the possibility of another problem besides “the parents;” are there other signs of trouble lying, theft, truancy, violence, substance abuse, gangs, trouble with the law, a criminal or juvenile record, though judging by the good doctor down playing the complicated nature of the question he perceived, one can presume not. No other techniques, trial and error scenarios are listed as to what the parents have done in an attempt to ascertain, never mind solve, this problem other than having read a book by Rosemond concerning parenting teens and “making some progress.” Underscoring the unnecessary quality to the doctor’s prescription; you the professional, you the parent, want to take this massive step all over grades?  When graduating high school is meaningless, it takes a college degree plus additional training to be successfully employed regardless of if your parents can’t afford it, federal aid doesn’t let you finish, or you graduate under a mountain of student loan debt with no basic, reasonable assurance 4 years of work and 10’s of thousands of dollars will lead to a job forget steady or stable, maybe just maybe, is it possible here is a teenager who, like so many disaffected others, has no interest in playing the game, no interest in entering the broken rat race everyone else is stuck in? But even those points are off topic compared to the thousand other approaches to handling an academic problem.

Notice Rosemond tells the questioning parents to start by stripping his room, removing privileges and telling him his life will be restored to normal when he has returned his grades to what he is capable of  and maintained it for no less than 8 weeks. However that assumes they know what he is capable of, know what his strengths and weaknesses are academically, know anything about their child’s inherent abilities, natural aptitudes, which they don’t appear to. Remember, no matter what drastic thing they say they are ready for it doesn’t mean a drastic thing is needed, or this drastic thing. Further their idea of permissive parenting and their definition of spoiled may be completely different from ours as readers or from Rosemond’s either one. He may not drive on any kind of regular basis, he may only have a basic cellphone, no i-pad, may not like video games, who knows maybe the family doesn’t watch TV or at least he doesn’t have one in his room and his computer is only used for school with blocks on it for anything else, leaving almost nothing to take away aside from a stereo or i-pod, greatly diminishing the effect of the Resemond method and doing absolutely nothing to discover other problems contributing to what they see, getting to the core reason behind him flunking classes. Nowhere did Rosemond even hint at having a genuine conversation with their child about what is going on in their life, any problems they are having with friends, activities, a girl, problems they might be having with school, teachers, assignments, anything that was bothering him, talking to his friends to see if they picked up on any changes in him, anything that would effect his mood, motivation or cause him to be distracted, the place you almost always begin in sorting out problems with teens. A better place to start from the academic side would be talking to his teachers, the school ask them what they see in their son at school, what they think could be going on with him; that he is borderline in 4 classes, most would take to mean scraping by with a D-, and going on the basic schedule of 6 classes and a study hall, yet only actually flunking 2 says there may be more to it than underachieving, lack of motivation. 

Another tact is to find out what homework, papers, presentations and so on your child has, then make sure they do them, demand to see the progress they have made, demand to see completed assignments before they are turned in, double checking they are what was asked for and meet acceptable parameters; when they complain about being treated like babies or so closely scrutinized, you remind them they wouldn’t be if they could be trusted to do the work on their own. Taking such a strategy also gives you a chance to see things like study habits, gage the level of difficulty, spot real problems with understanding and comprehension of material, because one of the side effects of schools attempting to enhance curriculum, boost core standards, supposedly making kids better prepared for the world, for existing jobs is high schools now requiring 3 sometimes 4 years worth of core subject classes has a kid on track in math at the junior high level taking calculus or pre-calculus by the time they are a senior. In science they are forced to take chemistry which they may just not understand in a 3 core curriculum program on top of a science elective in a 4 year core program; maybe they chose the wrong one. Sprinkle in the mandated year of foreign language and half credit of financial literacy rounding out the national trend in high school course requirements, and you have the perfect recipe for kids to flunk at least one class, no matter how hard they try, owing to languages not being their thing and the financial information sounding like an entirely different kind foreign language, originating on Mars perchance. Sometimes knowing your child, what motivates your child can be your most powerful tool, having a conversation with them about once you graduate high school you can go to college and get a degree in architecture, engineering, can go to trade school for mechanics, construction, art/music school, cooking school, wherever their passion lies, but you must graduate first. Knowing your child proves a superior tool in illuminating which, toy, privilege, activity to remove proportionate to the offence that will have the greatest impact in teaching what you what them to learn; proportion is what’s missing in any Rosemond guideline.                

Also to be noted, in regards to Mr. Rosemond’s assertions about freedom of people to seek advice as they choose, licensing examiners got involved responding to a complaint, not because of some out control random policing but instead looked into an individual brought to their attention. And not as a result of a crazy parent who didn’t like what was printed in black and white; it was brought by a fellow psychologist who read the work of his/her colleague, leaving them with significant un-ignorable ethical questions. Yes it is a technicality, but a truth all the same, Rosemond is not licensed to practice in Kentucky but in North Carolina; that and that alone is why he was temporarily asked to stop writing as a Dr. pending their investigation and subsequently asked to remove Dr. before his name when and if he continued to write, not the content, not an attempted usurpation of his freedom of speech, not the usurpation of the rights of his readers to seek his advice. As a therapist who has written numerous books, columns telling parents how to get their kids to tow the line, follow the rules, be respectful, contribute to society, he should more than comprehend their concern, more than recognize he needs to follow the rules. An easy solution to his predicament would be to go through the process of having himself licensed in his current state, or at minimum, investigate what that would entail. Instead he seems to be deflecting and distracting, refusing to take responsibility, really behaving no better than the children he blasts in his column, or those older generations now wandering around shouting their 2 cents regardless of relevance, saying oh I’m not practicing psychology; I’m writing a newspaper column, as if putting Dr. before his name doesn’t make people trust him more, knowing he has practiced some form of psychology, psychiatry, family counseling or a mixture of all three, makes them more likely to ask deeper questions leaning toward the more clinical assessment, throwing up the freedom of speech argument rather than reading why he was given the cease and desist order, filing a lawsuit rather than trying to correct the problem.               

Though the examining body in Kentucky declared they had no interest or issue with what Rosemond writes, perhaps someone should be taking a closer look; probable part of what got his fellow colleague’s attention is, unlike more in depth questions, farther reaching into the profession, the practice of psychology answered with information, professionalism and appropriate recommendations to seek local counseling, evaluation services his “answer” to these parents reads more like religious kookiness al-la tea party conservatives popular in southern areas and Appalachia, complete with all the stereotypes that implies, on par  with the father who shot holes in his daughters laptop with a firearm over comments about family on Facebook than solid advice; forget from someone who touts a professional background . Coupled with his attributing permissive parenting to the devil, Mr. Rosemond has a downright obsession with the good old days of the 1950’s, advocates parenting your children that way or any way before 50 years of bad psychology over intellectualizing parenting began in the 1960’s, suggestions no better than the advice analyzed here including for a 7 year old “throwing fits like a 2 year old,” strip his room down to nothing, make him maintain desired behavior for a month then add back items one at a time starting with what he values the least, he regresses, repeat process. He calls this removing the child from the golden Eden, not giving him things and privileges for bad behavior, which well may work for a kid who is spoiled, he believes all kids are, but my friends 8 year old still does this at times in spite of punishments. He has since been diagnosed with a learning disability and is scheduled for other testing to rule out psychological and neurological problems. Never mind the 7 year old he described will have no idea what is going on, completely forget what he did “wrong” and may never earn back his possessions because the take everything away method only served to escalate his behavior and not just in the short term.  His advice also can be a disaster for busy parents who now have a severely bored child on their hands with nothing to do, because all his possessions were confiscated, boredom causing him to get into more trouble creating a different vicious cycle.  Or his calling cutting an expression of teenage melodramatics, forget its links to coping with abuse, teens who cut to actually feel something other than numb.  One critic of his 2012 book described his nostalgia thus:

“If youth were so perfect back then, who the heck was devouring “Catcher In the Rye”? Or, by the by, if parents were so capable and kids so compliant, why does he describe how he was “grounded for the entire summer between high school graduation and going off to college” because he’d “been arrested for disturbing the public peace”? And if children were so untroubled, then why does he remember spending “my first through twelfth grades in a state of almost perpetual test anxiety, grade anxiety, flunking anxiety, parent anxiety, teacher anxiety and principal anxiety… I was in grade school during the 1960s, too, and I lost a classmate to suicide. I knew students who, in retrospect, abused alcohol and had incapacitating emotional problems, though he is right, they were not “removed from school and placed in a treatment center” because parents were still looking the other way then and good programs did not yet exist. No, I don’t have personal memories of anorexia or cutting among my friends, at least not until college, but I certainly remember classrooms being disrupted by students who were then taken off and paddled — which didn’t work, because they came back and did it again. I’m betting one or two of them are among the wave of adults who are diagnosed with ADHD each year — and who wonder how life could have been different for them had they gotten that news years ago.”  

The latter being something else he doesn’t believe in despite the countless testimonials of adult ADD/ADHD sufferers like Ty Pennington, or my friends 5 year old who 2 doses into medication no longer ran from his parents in public, no longer ran out any open door at home, could sit through a family meal without constant supervision, yelling, spanking and once his sleep medication was added and dosage achieved slept a full 10 hours a night as opposed  to 5, as opposed to getting up in the middle of the night and smearing anything liquid, Kool-Aid packet, sugar, tea, coffee all over the floor, the only child in a family of 3 kids to have such significant a discipline issue. All of the above raising bigger and bigger questions about the relevancy of his advice, condensing with the last time he actually practiced, when placed beside someone like Dr. Phil who is on the frontline of child/adolescent problems and parenting trends via his show.  Adjacently the 1950’s too was the era of the dunce cap, put on slower, disruptive kids, because we didn’t understand learning disabilities, didn’t know what things like dyslexia were; the 1950’s was the era of  alcoholic, abusive parents who couldn’t make their lives look like “Leave it to Beaver.”Idyllic 1950’s life included prolific child sexual abuse no one talked about, there was no counseling to treat and whose methodology was the predominate parenting style until the 1980’s producing some of the most famous serial killers to date, but Rosemond wants to go back to this “golden era.”

Finally returning to the 17 year old and the extreme advice, decries against spanking began when kids started showing up in ER’s with broken bones, horrible injuries begged off as spanking; teen boot camps, wilderness retreats for troubled youth were created to help those who needed it, take labeled delinquents and make them productive members of society. An equal number closed down, people placed in jail after children turned up dead of dehydration, heat stroke, malnutrition, exposure, shock like symptoms and beatings given by staff. Similarly scared straight trips to jail or the local morgue might prove results “working” in scaring them into better behavior; Dr. Rosemond’s method appearing to be a simplified home version of the above, yet sending the dangerous message to parents, society the ends always justify the means. He may achieve the desired goal of causing the young man to get better grades, but at what cost to the relationship with his parents, because even though he billed it as a last chance to save these parents’ relationship with their son, it could just as easily mean at 18 he flees never to return, never to speak to them, if nothing more than on the grounds of being put through that, them knowing no better way. Rosemond’s prescription almost mimicking these reparative, gay conversion therapy programs debated in court, many recently shut down due to the psychological trauma visited on participants, keeping in mind the doctor’s viewpoints line up in many ways with the conservative values stance, right wing politicians, people who would strip down their child’s room, send them to a boot camp if they came out to them. Remember taking everything away from this 17 year old won’t fix the problem if that problem really is depression, suicidal thoughts, emotionally based problems that disproportionally effect teens; it won’t fix schizophrenia, other similar thought disorders that manifest themselves in the late teens early 20’s. It won’t treat bipolar disorder, won’t stop a substance abuse issue, eating disorder.  It’s not the solution if his poor grades are due to a breakup, sexuality questions, bullying, a possible attack, rape or prolonged sexual abuse they knew nothing about. Not to be forgotten is stripping down is where Rosemond told them to start makes you shudder, wondering where he would end; how bout Old Testament verses legally and morally allowing the stoning to death of children who didn’t obey. And though it was considered right, how many actually did?