A composite of recent questions posed to me by journalists, along with my answers:
Q: What is the biggest problem in American parenting?
A: The marriage not lasting much past the birth of the first child. The two people, husband and wife, continue to live together but their marriage slowly fades away and is replaced by a virtually all-consuming focus on the child. Daddy and mommy replace husband and wife.
Q: Why is that so bad?
A: Because it is an unarguable fact that nothing puts a more solid foundation of well-being and security under a child’s feet than knowing his parents are in a committed relationship. Under those circumstances, children do not seek a lot of attention. Their most fundamental needs are being met.
Q: How does all that apply to single moms?
A: My mom was single for most of the first seven years of my life, so I’m eminently qualified to answer that question. The single mom needs to demonstrate to her kids, through how she lives her life, that women are interesting people. She needs to have a rich life outside of her parental responsibilities.
Q: You’re making it sound as if children really don’t need much attention.
A: They do for the first two years of life, at which point they should be slowly but surely weaned off of their dependence upon it. After a lifetime spent studying children, developmental psychologist Burton White came to the conclusion that the happiest children entertain themselves. They seek very little adult attention.
Q: So what should a parent do if a child is constantly wanting attention?
A: Parents should not let children dictate the terms of the parent-child relationship. The child who constantly wants attention needs parents who refuse to give it to him on demand.
Q: What if the child gets upset if the parents refuse to give him attention?
A: So what? Children don’t know what is best for themselves. A child who gets upset because his parents refuse to let him command center stage in the family should be sent to his room until he cools off.
Q: So what is the second-biggest problem in American parenting?
A: The mother reading too much. The more she reads, the more confused she becomes, the more she worries, the more she begins to second-guess herself. As a consequence of all that, she begins to experience child rearing as stressful, which it’s not. It’s a relatively simple, straightforward undertaking as long as you’ve got your parenting head on straight.
Q: That’s an ironic thing to hear from a guy who’s written more than a dozen parenting books, don’t you think?
A: Heaven help me if my writings cause confusion, worry or second-guessing. From all that I gather, they have a calming effect. I am a walking, talking parenting tranquilizer. You can call me the Mommy Whisperer.