The Parent TRAP

Chris Page and Kathrin Lancelle spent a long time finding the right school for their son. Exasperated with magnet school lotteries and waiting lists, they turned to Duval Charter School at Baymeadows. And while they have been pleased with their son’s academic performance there, they were alarmed to hear that, on Feb. 23, the school will host a talk by controversial parenting “expert” and author, John Rosemond.

Rosemond, a licensed, master’s-level psychologist who lives in New Bern, North Carolina, has written 14 books, including Parenting by the Book, described as a biblical approach to child-rearing. A running theme throughout his books and columns is that parenting has been ruined by psychology, which he calls “a secular religion.” In a 2007 interview with a fundamentalist Christian website, Rosemond said he believes the science is satanic.

Last month, he wrote, “The stuff mothers (and some fathers) read is largely baloney, written by professional parenting babblers who come, mostly, from various mental health fields.” Rosemond wrote that he aims to help parents reclaim “that which psycho-babble has stolen from them: common sense and a sense of humor.”

Rosemond says that parents worry too much about their children’s self-esteem and accuses psychologists of conflating serious, diagnosable conditions with individual differences. Rosemond has also written that Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is not a scientifically valid diagnosis, and that medication has not been scientifically proven to help youngsters diagnosed with it.

The self-styled “common-sense parenting” guru is also known for his unorthodox views on toilet-training, spanking and other parenting techniques.

When Page heard that Rosemond would be speaking to parents at his son’s public charter school, he wondered if it was that same, punitive-sounding expert on the radio he’d heard years ago, advocating that a mother “lower the boom” on her child.

“Holy crap. It rang a bell,” Page said.

A simple Google search confirmed his suspicion.

Page is a travel consultant who builds and coordinates hotel packages for rock music festivals. His wife, Lancelle, is a senior account manager at Folio Media House. In her opinion, Rosemond is a “charlatan.”

“They’re bringing in a guy with questionable credentials, who’s dispensing advice that’s actually dangerous,” Lancelle said. She notes that while Rosemond has a master’s degree, he is often erroneously referred to as “Dr. Rosemond.”

“I think the technical term is ‘quack,’” Page said, then paused and corrected himself. “That’s mean,” he said. “He’s an official Leave it to Beaver kind of guy who thinks he’s doing the right thing.”

Page and Lancelle are concerned that Rosemond might misinform unsuspecting parents, but they also worry that his promotion of “biblical principles” could impermissibly establish religion at their son’s school.

In his books and columns, Rosemond writes of concepts such as “psychological parenting,” and “apocalyptic parenting” — which he adamantly opposes in favor of “your grandmother’s wisdom” and the bible.

Rosemond’s Licensure Woes
Rosemond’s unconventional parenting advice, delivered through weekly columns published in 225 newspapers around the country, has gotten him into trouble before. In 1988, North Carolina’s licensure board reprimanded him for telling one family — in print — to discontinue their child’s psychological treatment.

According to the Lexington, Kentucky-based Herald Leader, he was disciplined again in 1992 after advising parents of a toddler who had been sexually abused that their 18-month-old wouldn’t need therapy because the child probably wouldn’t remember the abuse.

In 2013, Kentucky ordered Rosemond to stop publishing columns in that state because he was not licensed there. Rosemond sued in federal court, and won on First Amendment grounds.

ADHD Controversy
Rosemond has written “there is no good science behind the diagnosis of ADHD.” He has also written that there’s no scientific evidence that medications prescribed to children diagnosed with ADHD actually help.

One local expert says that both statements are false.

Dr. Laurie Truog, medical director at Jacksonville’s Child Guidance Center, is board certified in child and adolescent psychiatry, as well as in adult psychiatry. In an interview, Truog outlined the rigorous clinical-trials process the Food & Drug Administration uses before approving a drug for the prescription market, explaining that the FDA weighs the benefits of medicines carefully against their risks.

Truog says FDA asks this basic question before approving any drug: “Is this medicine safe and effective enough for most people with a given disorder that it would be helpful for them to have this medication?”

For the hundreds of children with ADHD that her agency treats each year, she says, the answer is a resounding “yes.”

“ADHD is a condition we have one of the most successful treatments for. Brain-mapping has been around for a long time, and we have a good understanding of different areas of the brain and their functions and the chemicals that drive those functions.

“There’s so many different research institutions — using SPECT scans and functional MRIs — that substantiate structural differences in the brain for many disorders,” she explained, citing ADHD and PTSD as two disorders that feature these differences.

“Obviously, he [Rosemond] is not a physician, so he’s not versed in these things. But speaking against it without the knowledge can be detrimental to the community,” Truog said.

Parenting vs. Brain Chemistry
Truog agrees with Rosemond on one point: The prevalence of ADHD among children, which Truog says is now at 11 percent, is so high that she believes some professionals could be over-diagnosing the condition.

Truog says that we know more now about the trouble some children have in organizing and processing sensory input, and that many non-pharmaceutical interventions can assist these children, who may have other conditions but not necessarily ADHD. Also, educational interventions have been very effective for children who have learning disorders.

Treatment for behavioral difficulties goes way beyond medication, she says. Other approaches include behavioral therapy, meeting a child’s need for more structure, testing for cognitive disorders, and consulting for educational interventions, including sensory interventions.

But that doesn’t mean that environmental support works for every child.

“The environment may be changed to help children,” she said, “but it can’t change the core deficit of ADHD.”

“There are children in highly supportive, highly functional families who have invested resources in educational accommodations and behavior therapy and they’re failing in school. And the medicine changes that, just because of one addition to the treatment approach.”

Truog added that Rosemond gives undue “exclusivity” to “parenting ideals” as a solution to problem behaviors among children.

“There’s so much more that plays a part in their development and their needs, and a consideration of basic body chemistry. I worry that he’s not communicating the big picture to families.”

“Not Our Purview”
“He’s not a believer in science or research or proof,” Lancelle said. “Everything for him is faith-based.”

Concerned that Rosemond might spread misinformation to unsuspecting parents, Page and Lancelle reached out to the principal of Baymeadows Charter, Kimberly Stidham, as well as their District 7 school board representative Lori Hershey.

When we tried to contact Stidham, her office referred FW to the school’s media consultant, Colleen Reynolds of Edge Communications, based in Fort Myers.

Reynolds declined to answer questions about Rosemond’s visit, including those about Rosemond’s licensure issues and controversial parenting views.

Instead, she released this statement:

It is correct that Mr. Rosemond’s travel expenses and fees are paid privately. Regarding all of the other issues, this is an engagement that is voluntary and if parents don’t want to hear his message, they certainly do not have to attend. Mr. Rosemond is an accomplished and very well-respected speaker and we are very excited to provide this opportunity to parents.

Reynolds did not respond to questions about what individual or group conducted the private fundraising, or how or where it was conducted.

Hershey says that charter schools, though publicly funded, are privately managed.

“Any decision by Duval Charter to bring in a speaker doesn’t have to come through us; that’s on them,” Hershey said.

“It’s not the same as if it were Mandarin [High School], Mandarin Middle, or Atlantic Coast,” she explained.

The board could ask a traditional public school to reconsider its decision, however, Hershey said, “We can’t do that with Duval Charter. It’s not our purview.”

In a statement, Duval County Public Schools confirmed Hershey’s statements, and also confirmed the voluntary nature of the after-hours parenting program, and that it was paid for privately.

It remains unclear whether Baymeadows Charter followed the district-wide protocol for bringing speakers to a public school, and what the purpose of such a protocol would be given the district’s hands-off approach.

About EU Jacksonville

october, 2021