When asked who the most important people in a family unit are most modern parents would emphatically answer – ‘Our kids!’

But when asked why most would struggle to come up with any answer other than to appeal to our emotions.

In a newspaper article, family psychologist John Rosemond argues that there is absolutely no logical reason for giving children such a powerful status and within the family and this is a serious error in modern thinking. This kind of mentality means that children are elevated to a superior level within the family unit because the parents act as if the family exists because of the kids. The reality is – of course – the opposite. Children exist because of their parents and thrive because in the ideal situation the parents have created a stable family.

Parents are providers and children receive everything they need from them, food, clothes, a home, holidays and much more. In this environment children can live carefree lives, leaving aside the occasional melodramas they create as a part of growing up.

Prior to this relatively recent change in attitudes, children understood that parents were the most important part of the family and adults in general were to be looked up to and respected. Children had a reduced status and were second-class citizens – a fact that worked to their advantage.

The marriage was the centre of this family unit and children understood it. This was reflected in the children’s behaviours:-

  • they would not interrupt adult conversations.
  • the parents’ bed was a child-free zone with few exceptions.
  • family meals were shared at a table.
  • parents’ interactions were more focused on each other rather than their children.

Leaders are important, in the army the most important person is the general and likewise for the CEO of a company and a teacher in a classroom. It therefore follows that parents are the most important part of the family unit.

Raising children properly – whatever the details – means preparing them to become responsible members of the society they live in. While it is nice to have highly successful children, and this should be encouraged, it is not the primary role for parents to drive this if the same successful children struggle to contribute to a community on the whole.

We have come a long way from ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’, but now we are in danger of the opposite; a mentality that puts the child first is the first step to entitlement – a belief that children can have something just because of their status. Children thrive and develop responsibility when they feel they have to contribute, rather than have everything handed to them on a plate.

This article is based on a newspaper article by John Rosemond which appeared in the Naples Daily News on 1st January 2017.

© Horton, R. (2017) Omega Support Services

Pre-Reading Tasks

1. When it comes to authority, who is the most important person in your family?

2. Is this correct? Who should be? Why?

3. In your view, in terms of authority where is a child’s place within the family unit?

Now read the article before answering the following questions and completing the speaking tasks.


Explain the following words and phrases:

  •  emphatically (Paragraph 1)
  • appeal to our emotions (Paragraph 1)
  • elevated (Paragraph 2)
  • thrive (Paragraph 2)
  • carefree (Paragraph 3)
  • melodramas (Paragraph 3)
  • reduced status (Paragraph 4)
  • ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’ (Paragraph 8)
  • entitlement (Paragraph 8)

Speaking *

1. Should children be the most important members of a family?

2. John Rosemond believes that having children at the centre of the family unit is a cause of many of the problems families face. Do you agree with his assessment?

3. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement?

“Parenting is primarily about preparing children for adulthood in teaching them responsibility. Driving them to success is of secondary importance.”

4. The phrase ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’comes from the Bible and whilst smacking is largely seen nowadays as unacceptable the central point of this phrase is stating that firm discipline is the best way to raise children – as opposed to giving them what they want. Is firm discipline the best way to raise a child? Why (not)?

5. What is the best way for children to develop social responsibility?

* You need to prepare these questions for conversation during your next online / face-to-face session with your tutor.