November 14, 2009

How Old is Old Enough for Driver's License?

How Old is Old Enough for Driver's License?

John K. Rosemond My oldest grandson, not yet 15, is already taking drivers education. In fact, he’s already been behind the wheel with his instructor, on an interstate highway no less. I’m resigned to his obtaining his license in a little more than a year. I’m not happy about it. I’m resigned. Mind you, he’s more trustworthy and responsible (in my objective opinion) than nine-point-nine out of ten of his peers. He’s a good if not great kid, and as my readers know, my standards are high. Still, I’m shaking my head in incredulous resignation.

Disclaimer: When my kids turned 16, each received a car from their hugely naïve parents. Would that I had some things to do over again.

Two weeks ago, a San Diego journalist called asking for some quotes for a story he’s doing on teenage drivers. The story was prompted by the recent automobile deaths of two San Diego teens in separate accidents. My beloved grandson’s life flashed in front of me.

I told said journalist that giving a drivers license to a teenage child (and if anyone has failed to notice, they are still children) under age 18 was like giving the kid a revolver with ten thousand chambers, only one of which is loaded with a bullet, and telling him to point it at his head and pull the trigger. Would any responsible parent do such a thing? Then, pray tell, why do otherwise responsible parents allow teenage children to obtain drivers licenses and provide them with cars?

When would I allow driving privileges? he asked. When two conditions were satisfied­—the 18th birthday and a high school diploma. Would that reduce the drop-out rate or what?

The 16-year-old driving privilege was established when cars were less powerful, roads were less crowded, and 16-year-olds were considerably more mature than they are today. Furthermore, these laws were passed to allow teens to participate more fully in the operation of family farms. They were not passed with the intention that teens would drive for discretionary, largely recreational purposes.

Do teens need driving privileges, much less cars? Obviously not. In Europe, where teens seem to live satisfactory lives (by all measures, they are much happier on average than US teens), the driving age is 18. Even then, few young adults drive cars. They walk, ride bicycles, use public transportation, or putt around on scooters.

Someone clamors for my attention: “But John! Lots of small towns and rural areas don’t have public transportation!” But the same is true in Europe. And, to repeat, European teens are lots happier than they are on this side of the pond.

I suggest that the primary reason the driving age is not going to be raised any time soon is because the current law is a huge convenience to parents. They are not only relieved of having to transport the young licensee, but they can also assign him to driving younger siblings to after-school activities and the like. So even though these young drivers cannot vote, state legislators are going to protect their driving privileges. Given that interstate commerce is involved, we can only hope that Congress will take up the issue.

Given the facts, which lead to the inescapable conclusion that giving driving privileges to a teen, any teen, puts the youngster at far, far more risk than letting a 5-year-old play outside unsupervised (which most of the same parents would not allow), I must conclude that this is not, to be polite, the most prudent of moves.

I invite anyone out there to justify this to me in rational terms. You can send your comments to me through my website at

Family psychologist John Rosemond’s latest book, The Well-Behaved Child, is now in bookstores.

Rosemond answers parents' questions on his website at

August 01, 2009

Mom Doesn't Have to Sacrifice Everything

John K. Rosemond

Editor's Note: This John Rosemond column was previously published.

Question: Ever since I had children, now 7 and 5, I have resented sacrificing my executive position in the work force for staying home and giving 150% to my children to make sure they succeed in life. I was recently offered my last position back. I am torn between going back to work and my responsibility as a parent. My husband, who is an uninvolved father, says he wants me to be happy and thinks that going back to work is what I should do. What advice can you give me?

Answer: Take it from someone whose mom worked and went to college nearly all of my formative years, one can succeed in life without his or her mom sacrificing everything she wants for herself to insure that. In fact, I don't think the self-sacrificing mom insures anything except perhaps a child who is excessively dependent upon his mother.

Why did women liberate themselves, anyway? Surely not to enslave themselves to the task of making sure their kids succeed, which no amount of maternal effort can guarantee anyway. My mom, and mothers of her ilk through time, thought it was their kids' responsibility to figure out how to succeed in life, not theirs. They believed it was simply their job to raise children of character, not children who had high IQs or sat at the heads of their classes or went on to become doctors, lawyers, or CEOs of major corporations.

As for your husband, the "uninvolved father" who wants what is best for his wife, perhaps you are so involved with your children that he has difficulty feeling like he can get involved without incurring your micromanagement. Any woman who says she is giving more than 33% of herself to her kids is, by definition, what I call a 3M mom: a magnificent maternal micromanager. Obviously, you more than qualify. Besides, as I've said in recent columns, I don't think parents should be involved with their children. They should be interested and ready to get involved, but involvement should be the exception, not the rule. A HUSBAND AND WIFE SHOULD BE INVOLVED WITH ONE ANOTHER. And yes, I'm yelling, because all-too-many of today's parents need to be strapped to chairs and made to listen to a tape loop of the previous sentence blaring over a loudspeaker until they get it.

There is nothing that secures a child's sense of well-being and releases his capacity for self-sufficiency more reliably than knowing his parents are in relationship with one another. Perhaps, and I say this gently, you have so immersed yourself in the role of mother that you have neglected your marriage. Perhaps it is past time for you to rediscover the joy and liberation of being a wife first, a mother second.

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents' questions on his website at

*About the Author: Rosemond has written nine best-selling parenting books and is one of America's busiest and most popular speakers, known for his sound advice, humor and easy, relaxed, engaging style. In the past few years, John has appeared on numerous national television programs including 20/20, Good Morning America, The View, Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect, Public Eye, The Today Show, CNN, and CBS Later Today.

Click here to visit Rosemond's Web site,

July 11, 2009

Sleep Schedule, Sibling Conflict

Sleep Schedule, Sibling Conflict

John Rosemond Q: Under normal circumstances, which are rare, our 4-year-old son goes to bed uneventfully by 7:30 and is usually asleep before 7:45. He never sleeps past 6:15 the next morning, and I can tell he’s tired by early afternoon, but he refuses to take a nap. As a result, he’s a little monster by 4:00 because he’s so overtired. Then, if I put him in his room for bad behavior, he falls into a very deep sleep. If I wake him, his behavior is atrocious, so I let him sleep, which means he has difficulty falling asleep when he put him to bed at 7:30. How can I get out of this vicious cycle?

A: Your son is having difficulty establishing a waking/sleeping routine for himself, so you’re going to have to provide that structure for him. The solution to this problem­ is actually quite simple. Tell your son that his doctor says he doesn’t have to take a nap, but he does have to go to his room at 1:00 for two hours of quiet time, during which the whole house has to be a quiet place (meaning no television, stereo, long/loud phone conversations, and the like). He can play quietly in his room, but he can’t come out until 3:00. If you set the stove timer to announce the end of quiet time, he won’t be inclined to stand at the door asking “Is it time yet?” If he’s asleep when the timer goes off, wake him up. He’ll get into a new and better routine fairly quickly.

Q: Whenever our 11-year-old son has a friend over to play, our 15-year-old daughter interferes in ways that eventually reduce our son to tears. Mostly, she’ll make fun of him or make him the butt of cruel jokes. Is there some way of making her understand how hurtful she is being? Does our son simply need to ignore her? This sibling rivalry has become extremely disruptive to our family. Help!

A: There’s sibling conflict, which is almost inevitable. Then there’s sibling rivalry, which parents create by attempting to mediate sibling conflict. Then there’s outright verbal or physical bullying by one sibling toward another. You’re describing the latter, and believe me, your daughter is not going to stop bullying her brother because you try to help her see the error of her ways. Expecting your son to simply ignore his sister’s taunts is equally unrealistic.

Your son has a right to have a friend over without being victimized by his older sister. Since she obviously derives a great deal of perverse pleasure out of doing so (and since any attempt on my part to explain her behavior would be pure speculation, I’m going to cut to the chase), she’s not going to stop until you put the proverbial hammer down. The most effective way of doing so is simply to inform her that for the next month, whenever her brother has a friend over, she has to go to her room, shut the door, and stay there until the friend leaves. During said month, make sure lots of friends come over, and make sure they come over for long periods of time...hours! Have them spend the night!

At the end of her stint in bullying rehab, tell your daughter that if she’s ready to act her age when her brother has friends over, her life can return to normal. Inform her, however, that the next incident will result in a three-month rehab period, and that she will not obtain any driving privileges until she has completely solved this problem. That should get her attention.

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents' questions on his website at

*About the Author: John Rosemond has written nine best-selling parenting books and is one of America's busiest and most popular speakers, known for his sound advice, humor and easy, relaxed, engaging style. In the past few years, John has appeared on numerous national television programs including 20/20, Good Morning America, The View, Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect, Public Eye, The Today Show, CNN, and CBS Later Today.

Visit Rosemond's Web site, Currently, Rosemond is offering two of his books for the price of one.

May 01, 2009

Focus On The Family

Dr. James Dobson


QUESTION: Should I punish my strong-willed son for every little thing he does wrong? I would be on his back every minute of the day.

DR. DOBSON: I am not suggesting that you be oppressive in dealing with everyday behavior. The issues that should get your attention are those that deal with respect for you as his mother. When he is defiant, sassy and disobedient, you should confidently and firmly step in and lead. This disobedient behavior is distinctly different, however, from that which is natural and necessary for learning and development. Let me explain.

Toddlers most often get in trouble for simply exploring and investigating their world. That is a great mistake. Preschoolers learn by poking their fingers into things that adults think they should leave alone. But this busy exploration is extremely important to intellectual stimulation.

Whereas you and I will look at a crystal trinket, and obtain whatever information we seek from that visual inspection, a toddler will expose that pretty object to all of her senses. She will pick it up, taste it, smell it, wave it in the air, pound it on the wall, throw it across the room, and listen to the pretty sound that it makes when shattering. By that process she learns a bit about gravity, rough versus smooth surfaces, the brittle nature of glass, and some startling things about Mother's anger.

I am not suggesting that your child be allowed to destroy your home and all of its contents. Neither is it right to expect him to keep his hands to himself. Parents should remove those items that are fragile or dangerous, and then strew the child's path with fascinating objects of all types. Permit him to explore everything possible and do not ever punish him for touching something that he did not know was off limits, regardless of its value. With respect to dangerous items, such as electric plugs and stoves, as well as a few untouchable objects, such as the controls on the television set, it is possible and necessary to teach and enforce the command, "Don't touch!"

If the child refuses to obey even after you have made your expectations clear, a mild slap on the hands while saying no will usually discourage repeat episodes.

I would, however, recommend patience and tolerance for all those other everyday episodes that involve neither defiance nor safety.

QUESTION: I have to fight with my nine-year-old daughter to get her to do anything she doesn't want to do. It's so unpleasant that I've about decided not to take her on. Why should I try to force her to work and help around the house? What's the downside of my just going with the flow and letting her off the hook?

DR. DOBSON: It's typical for nine-year-olds not to want to work, of course, but they still need to become acquainted with it. If you permit a pattern of irresponsibility to prevail in your child's formative years, she may fall behind in her developmental timetable leading toward the full responsibilities of adult living.

As a ten-year-old, she won't be able to do anything unpleasant since she has never been required to stay with a task until it is completed. She won't know how to give to anyone else because she's only thought of herself. She'll find it hard to make decisions or control her own impulses.

A few years from now, she will steamroll into adolescence and then adulthood completely unprepared for the freedom and obligations she will find there. Your daughter will have had precious little training for those pressing responsibilities of maturity.

Obviously, I've painted a worst-case scenario with regard to your daughter. You still have plenty of opportunity to help her avoid it. I just hope your desire for harmony doesn't lead you to do what will be harmful to her in later years.

Dr. Dobson is founder and Chairman Emeritus of the nonprofit organization Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, Colo. 80995 ( Questions and answers are excerpted from "Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide" and "Bringing Up Boys," both published by Tyndale House.

April 08, 2009

Shy Children

Shy Child Can Become More Social

Sylvia Rimm Q. Can you give us some advice on helping our 3-year-old daughter overcome her shyness? She's in preschool and cried the whole time at the Christmas party. She wouldn't go on stage with the rest of her classmates and stood next to me, clinging to me the whole time.

A. While children are born with different temperaments and some are more shy than others, fully half of shy children reverse their obvious shyness. A first priority is for children not to become labeled by adult talk as being shy, so when others call your daughter shy, just respond by saying, "She seems to be getting over her shyness as she grows up." You'll want to look for opportunities to comment within her hearing on her improved social ability and independence. Gradually, she'll see herself as more confident as you describe her that way. Right now, discussion of her shyness brings her plenty of attention, and she carries it as her persona.

Plan play dates for her at home and at other children's homes so she gets time away from you. Don't ask if she'd like to go to new places, or she'll say no and an argument will ensue. Instead, just say, with confidence, "I've arranged for your friend to come here," or " � for you to go there," or " � for you to take dance lessons." Once she's been dropped off a few times and starts enjoying friends or interesting classes, she'll forget to feel shy and will develop more social confidence.

For free newsletters about referential speaking, principles of parenting, or social skills, send a large, self-addressed, stamped envelope to P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI, 53094, or go to for more parenting information.


Appropriate Nudity Is Culturally Defined

Q. I'm wondering at what age is it inappropriate for a child to see their parent naked? If it's the opposite-sexed parent, is the age different?

A. Most typically, seeing the same-sexed parent nude is reasonable at any age, thus dressing in locker rooms for swimming or gym is usually open. I advise that nudity with the opposite sex should stop around kindergarten age when children are expected to use separate rooms at school for dressing or using the toilet.

Children need to be taught not to touch private parts quite early, although they're often curious about touching their parents' private parts. The most important reason for teaching this is to avoid children getting into trouble by touching other children and to protect them from predators or abusers who might take advantage of their naivet� and touch them.

Some cultures are clearly more relaxed about nudity than others, and in some cultures adults and children are even playful about touching each other's private parts. Because our mainstream culture has become hypersensitive to abuse, I recommend stating very clearly to children that they must not touch others' private parts and must not permit others to touch theirs. Nonetheless, it's important for parents not to overreact or over punish children when they touch or look at each other out of what always has been and continues to be normal childhood curiosity. It's a very tricky balance.

For a free newsletter about raising preschoolers, send a large self-addressed, stamped envelope to P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI, 53094, or read "Raising Preschoolers" at

Dr. Sylvia B. Rimm is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the author of many books on parenting. More information on raising kids is available at Please send questions to: Sylvia B. Rimm on Raising Kids, P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI 53094 or To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

March 18, 2009

How Do I Get My Child to Say 'Yes'?

By: Shari Harpaz, CCC-SLP (Speech-Language Pathologist)

Does your child often respond ‘no' when you ask them a question? When asked a ‘yes' or ‘no', most children will respond ‘no' more often than ‘yes.'

Toddlers and pre-schoolers are at an age when they are egocentric and/or establishing independence (see all milestones). By saying ‘no' they are making a clear statement that they don't want to do something and now your hands are tied if you really needed them to do it. So what should a parent do?

Here are some tips to help get more of the response you're looking for:

1. Try and ask questions in a “what”? Or “where”? Format instead of yes/no whenever possible. For example: if you're child is pointing and you can't determine what they want instead of saying “Do you want juice?” and having to go thru a list of items, ask “what do you want?”

2. Give your child a choice of 2-3 things you are willing to give them. (“Do you want to go to the park or to the book store”)? This way they feel empowered that they chose the activity, and you didn't have to negotiate after a ‘no' response.

3. Sometimes your best option is to simply TELL your child that this is what you are going to do/eat/have etc. Remember you're the parent and know what's best so don't let your little negotiators always get their way!

For some activities that don't involve ‘yes/no' answers, check out...

You pick the game you want to play:

Which puzzle do you want to play with:

Let's "Pretend Play" and have some fun:

March 04, 2009

Shy Children

Shy Child Can Outgrow Problem

Sylvia Rimm Q. I have a 2-year-old daughter who has gotten progressively shyer. I'm a stay-at-home mom, and we participate in weekly gym classes and have many playdates. When we arrive somewhere my daughter will hang on to my hand or try to climb up my clothing and it takes quite a bit of coaxing to get her to participate. She's less shy with Daddy, but still much more so than other children. I let her scan the room to see who's there, give her time to get comfortable and encourage her to participate. I hold her hand until she lets go, and I lead her to activities.

We have a close friend who's very lenient with her daughter, and often her daughter wants to spend time with my daughter. My friend takes my daughter by the hand and leads her to her daughter. She's loving toward my daughter, and the girls get along wonderfully, but I think she's creating another dependency on her daughter and increasing my daughter's dependency. I'm trying to make sure she mixes with the other kids in class, as well as in public places such as parks. I'm friendly and outgoing myself to show her how easy it can be. It creates quite a bit of tension.

First, what can I do to help my daughter overcome this shyness? Second, how do I handle my friend who means well but whom I believe is making the situation worse? She suggested I drop my daughter off at her house for a playdate and leave her there alone. I also know that day care might help. Unfortunately, we can't afford it since I'm a stay-at-home mom. I don't want to go back to work just to put her in day care. Thank you for any help you can provide.

A. Children are born with different temperaments and some have biological tendencies to be more fearful. However, fully half of shy children reverse their shyness, and you should have reasonable confidence that your daughter can do that. There are a few techniques that are very effective.

First and foremost, take the word "shy" out of your vocabulary within your daughter's earshot. When others refer to her as shy, explain that she's actually quite friendly. Within your daughter's hearing, but indirectly to your husband, mother or friend, mention that you notice that she's starting to outgrow her shyness and seems to enjoy gym class.

As to your friend whose daughter is your daughter's age, I'm not sure what in the mother's behavior you're perceiving as a problem. Having her spend time at this girl's house, without you, sounds like excellent practice for independence. Doing the same with other friends will give her a variety of friendship experiences and help her overcome her shyness.

Unless parents are required to stay in gym class, I suggest walking your daughter in, giving her a hug and letting her know you'll pick her up later. After two or three times, I expect she'll have friends to play along side of, which is what 2-year-olds typically do.

As to day care, I don't think you need to feel guilty about not enrolling her. If you can manage two half days a week of preschool next year (at age 3), that would help her social adjustment. In addition to the gym classes, weekly library story hours, playdates and occasional babysitters will help your daughter become more independent and confident.

For free newsletters about developing social skills or raising preschoolers, send a large, self-addressed, stamped envelope to P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI, 53094, or go to for more parenting information.

Dr. Sylvia B. Rimm is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the author of many books on parenting. More information on raising kids is available at Please send questions to: Sylvia B. Rimm on Raising Kids, P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI 53094 or To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

February 28, 2009

Parents Can Only Do So Much

Parents Can Only Do So Much

John K. Rosemond One of the defining features of today's parenting mindset is guilt. Mothers seem to be especially susceptible to this psychological virus-today's moms, that is. Fifty years and more ago, before the psychological parenting revolution of the late 1960s and early 1970s, mothers were more immune to guilt. Back then, when a child behaved badly, the mother made the child feel guilty. These days, when a child behaves badly, the child's mother is likely to experience the guilt due the offense.

This has happened because today's moms -- the primary consumers of parenting information and therefore its primary victims -- believe that parenting produces the child. That's understandable. After all, if one goes to a mental health professional because of some problem, the overwhelming likelihood is that the MHP is going to ask questions about the person's childhood. Determinism has been a dominant feature of much if not most psychological theory since Freud, and even though it is not supported by research or common sense, it lingers on.

Mainstream psychological theory is hard pressed to explain how a person who grows up with every conceivable advantage takes a hard left turn as a young adult and winds up trashing his life, much less that he keeps making the same mistakes over and over and over again. Violent criminals do not all come from violent families. Pathological liars do not all come from pathological families.

The only conclusion upheld by common sense: Parenting does not produce the child. Parenting is an influence, and it is certainly prudent for parents to do what they can to maximize positive influence, but in the final analysis, the child produces himself. At any given point in his life, he takes your influence (along with a host of others) and he decides what to do with it. He is the decider.

Prior to the Age of Psychological Parenting, parents understood that they could only do so much. They understood that no matter how "good" their parenting was, their children were still capable on any given day of going to school or out into the community and doing bad things -- really bad, even. In the final analysis, therefore, their children were responsible for their own behavior. So back in those not-so-long-ago days, when a child misbehaved, the child's parents weren't likely to agonize over it, punishing themselves. They punished him.

All too many of today's parents, in the same circumstances, punish themselves. They agonize. They feel bad. They search themselves for the answer to "Why?" Consequently, their children are not being held fully responsible.

Of late, I've been asking my audiences two questions:

Is parenting more or less stressful, do you think, than it was in the 1950s?

Are today's children more or less happy than were children in the 1950s?

Every audience -- of which there have been approximately ten so far -- has reached instant consensus. Their answers have been, respectively, more and less. Those are, of course, the correct answers.

I simply propose that much of the stress is due to parents holding themselves responsible for their children's misbehavior. And I propose that much of the unhappiness is because children are not being held responsible for their own behavior.

Copyright 2009, John K. Rosemond

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents' questions on his website at

*About the Author: Rosemond has written nine best-selling parenting books and is one of America's busiest and most popular speakers, known for his sound advice, humor and easy, relaxed, engaging style. In the past few years, John has appeared on numerous national television programs including 20/20, Good Morning America, The View, Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect, Public Eye, The Today Show, CNN, and CBS Later Today.

January 10, 2009

Struggling with Infant's Sleeping Schedule

John K. Rosemond

Question: For the last month our 31-month-old son has started waking up around three in the morning, wide awake. After finally getting him back to sleep he wakes up for good at six-thirty. Before this started he slept through the night until seven, seven-thirty. His afternoon nap is now a good half hour shorter as well. I think he's over-tired, and this is why he is waking up during the night. Consequently, I think he needs to go to bed earlier. My dear husband thinks the opposite and wants to make his bed time later. Please tell us, who's right?

Answer: The real problem here is that your husband is having difficulty accepting that in a happy marriage, the woman rules. He doesn't yet realize that admitting this reality will make for a happier marriage; thus, a happier man.

Concerning sleep and youngsters, the general rule is that the later a young child stays up at night, the less well the child will sleep. Being overtired is the biggest cause of sleeplessness and restless sleep in small ones.

Having said that, there is no guarantee that putting your son down earlier in the evening will solve the problem. He may be making a transition in his sleep habits, one that will work itself out in a month or so. Nonetheless, I'd put him to bed no later than seven-thirty in the evening if for no reason other than providing the two of you with more child-free time.

Question: How important is it that I provide my 2-year-old with socialization opportunities? The other mothers in the neighborhood have formed a play group for their toddlers, but they seem to spend most of their time intervening in conflicts and squabbles and conflicts over toys.

Answer: The anxiety endemic to modern mother culture makes it difficult for moms to just "go with the flow" of their children's development. I am unable to find research that supports the need for contrived social opportunities during toddlerhood. In fact, the research suggests that toddler play groups may contribute to later aggressiveness. As you point out, toddlers are territorial and tend, in groups, to have more conflict than not. This stage works itself out quite naturally sometime during the fourth year of life. Therefore, play groups for 3-year-olds make a lot more sense than play groups for twos, but having anxious moms hovering about is counterproductive. The way to go here is two three-hour weekly sessions at a non-academic play school.

The mother of a toddler recently saw the light concerning mother-run play groups and shares this testimonial: "My gut was telling me that these outings were just not necessary and way more trouble than they were worth. When I finally opted out of play-date society, life became immediately more enjoyable. I now feel that a little social time at Mothers' Morning Out or church nursery is more than sufficient at this age. I just don't have the time or energy to watch toddlers go at each other over a toy. Both of my kids began sharing spontaneously shortly after their third birthdays, at which time I began accepting play dates again."

Let those with ears, hear!

Copyright 2008, John K. Rosemond

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents' questions on his website at