I recently had a conversation with an Austrian woman that turned my understanding of American parenting on its head. She shed light on the stark contrast between our fear-tinged approach and the straightforward, instinct-led style of Austrian parents. In this episode, I unpack the origins and impacts of the American psychological parenting revolution of the '60s and '70s and how it has left today's mothers wrestling with a host of fears.ParentGuru: Better Parenting Starts Here
Well, hello, welcome, or welcome back, as the case may be to, Because I Said so. I'm your host, john Rosemann. This is the only podcast on the entire universe Wide Web where you will hear the truth about America's mental health, professions, child rearing, children, families, marriages, mothers, fathers, etc. Glad you could join us. I was speaking in Huntsville, alabama, I don't know, maybe 15, 20 years ago, doing a three-hour seminar, and during the break a woman approached me and, speaking impeccable English but with a distinct Germanic accent, told me that although she had been in the United States only three years, it was long enough, she said, to have figured out what the problem is in American child rearing. So intrigued, I asked well, that's interesting. So what, from your point of view, is the problem? And she said fear. Fear is the problem. The behavior of American mothers is driven by fear. What an amazingly insightful thing to say the behavior of American mothers is driven by fear. Are you listening, american mothers? I hope so. She went on to tell me that in Austria, her home country, the raising of children is approached very matter-of-factly, like it's something human beings are instinctually equipped to do, which, by the way, is an apt description of the American attitude toward raising children prior to the psychological parenting revolution that took place in this country in the late 1960s and early 1970s. My new friend from Austria then told me that she was able to figure out that in today's America, mothers are driven by anxiety and fear, because she had come from a culture where that wasn't at all the case. Among those same lines, women have told me that I seem to understand what's going on in American mother culture better than women understand it. Now, mind you, I'm not bragging here, but I think they're right. There's a Zen Buddhist saying that applies the fish does not know, it is swimming in water. Now, likewise, the American mother doesn't know. She's operating in a climate of fear, anxiety and guilt. She doesn't know because her peers, for the most part, are also operating in response to those same factors. And so to the American mom being in a constant state of fear, anxiety and or guilt is normal In her mind. It simply goes with the territory of raising a child Going back to the Buddhist saying she's one of the fish, and she and the other mother fish are all swimming in an ocean of fear. Fear of what? That's a good question To begin with. Fear of being judged by other mothers and found to be inadequate according to some standard of good mothering that didn't exist when I was a child. Fear of her child behaving in some way that implies she isn't disciplining him properly or giving him enough of her attention, thereby causing him insecurities which are popping out as misbehavior. Fear of her child not being invited to play dates and birthday parties because he's disruptive or weird in some way. These boys are disruptive and all children are weird in some way. Fear of her child performing in school less well than her friends' children, implying that she isn't doing something she ought to be doing, she's not checking the portal often enough, she's not giving her child enough help with his homework, etc. Etc. Etc, etc. Fear of her child responding to her imagined inadequacies by developing emotional problems. Fear of her child not liking her. Fear of her child questioning her Love for him. Fear of failing to pick up on some sign from her child that she's not doing something right. Fear of her child not succeeding in life or some aspect of life. Fear, fear, fear and fear breeds anxiety and anxiety brings obsessive behavior and anxiety breeds micromanagement. Micromanagement never works. It always creates larger problems, and the larger her child's problems become, whatever they are, the more fear and anxiety she experiences and the more she tries to correct by micromanaging, and around and around she goes. I'm describing the norm in American mother culture. It wasn't always this way. Mothers didn't fit that description when I was a child. When I was a child, mothers were solid and secure in their authority over their children and they conveyed that authority and you know their exceptions to everything I say, folks, but this was the norm. They conveyed that authority calmly to their kids. Today's moms hardly fit that description. When I was a child, you obeyed your mother because, as loving as she was, you knew she was capable of causing your insides to melt Without so much as raising her voice. Your mother could just look at you in a certain way, with a certain facial expression, and shivers ran up and down your spine. That was the case with me and my mother, and I don't remember my mother ever yelling and I don't remember my mother ever getting upset to the point where she was flustered with me. I was never spanked and yet my mother a single parent from most of the first seven years of my life, could just look at me with a certain facial expression of disapproval and shivers ran up and down my spine and whatever I was doing, I stopped right away. When I was a child, children were afraid of their mothers, not terrified. That's a different thing. When I was a child, children were fearful of their mothers. In the year twenty-four well, it's not twenty-four, it's twenty-twenty-four. In the year twenty-twenty-four, mothers are afraid of their children. Oh my, how the worm has turned. Once upon a time, not so long ago, mothers established boundaries physical and emotional between themselves and their children. They didn't sleep with their children, they didn't allow their children to bother them when they were doing something important. Today, it's the rare mother who establishes such boundaries, which means that the mother-child relationship today is a relationship of mutual co-dependence, within which the child's failures are the mother's failures. Whatever upsets the child upsets the mother, and the mother drives around town with a sign on her car proclaiming that her child is gifted. Now what? What a strange thing to do. What a strange thing to do Drive around town with a sign on your car proclaiming that your child is gifted. I came home from school one day I think I was in the fifth grade and complained to my mother that my teacher didn't like me. Without stopping what she was doing, my mother simply said it's high time you learn that not everyone is going to like you, and high time you learned how to deal with such people, which is, don't attract their attention. And that was that Today's mother, upon hearing the same complaints, sets up an appointment with the teacher to discuss the issues whatever they are, because in the year 2024, the good mommy solves all of her child's problems. My mother used to tell me that her job was to teach me to stand on my own two feet. And you won't learn to stand on your own two feet, she would say, if I let you stand on mine. So no, I'm not doing that. My mother would say I'm not doing that. Whatever it was I wanted her to do, I'm not doing that for you, and there was no persuasion at that point that would move her, not shrieking, screaming, crying, curling up and acting catatonic in the corner of my room. On another occasion, I asked my mother to do something for me and she said absolutely not. And do not ever again ask me to do something for you that you're capable of doing for yourself. I am not your personal servant. Do you understand me, john Rosemond? Well, yeah, I understood All too well, and I never again. I don't remember what it was, but I guarantee you I never again asked her to do whatever it was for me. Where is the mother today, in the year 2024, who talks to her child in that straightforward, authoritative way? She may be out there somewhere, but in the 1950s she was virtually every mother. Proof of which is that, when I share stories about my mother with other people my age, it never fails that my stories prompt them to tell similar stories about their mothers, and the stories in question always portray women who were mighty authority figures who insisted that their children treat them with respect and accept full responsibility for the choices they made. Today, the mother accepts full responsibility for the choices her child makes, and so the child is likely to accept no responsibility at all, and that is, after all, the nature of a codependent relationship. How ironic is it that some 50 years ago, women declared they would no longer be seen Be subject to men and have since subjected themselves to their children? Let me say that again. How ironic is it that some 50 years ago, women declared they would no longer be subject to men and have since subjected themselves to their children? In short, women's liberation has been a force, and that good people is a wrap. You've been listening to Because I Said so with your host, john Roseman. I've got a weekly sub stack you can find at substackcom. I'd love for you to subscribe and help support this mission in the process. You can find out more about me and the mission at either johnrosemancom or parent gurucom. Glad you joined us. Hope you continue to do so. Have a great day, a great week, a good month, a great year. And that good people is a wrap. Just remember in closing keep on rocking in the free world, because if we don't keep rocking it, we're going to lose it. We're right on the edge of doing so right now. Have a good day.