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John Rosemond is America's most widely-read parenting authority! He is a best-selling author, columnist, speaker, and family psychologist.

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Forget adjectives; any child is a child, any family is a family

Parents frequently ask if I have written books on adjective-children (e.g. adopted children) or adjective-families (e.g. blended families), which indicates they think either (1) one’s approach to child rearing must be customized to the adjective that is one’s child or (2) the rules for operating a family-with-adjective are different than those for operating a family constituted without adjective. The truth is that such unique child-rearing formulas and rules do not exist outside of therapy and book publishing, both of which profit from leading the public to think otherwise. A child is a child, and a family is a family.

Unfortunately, books on how to raise the (insert adjective) child and how to operate the (insert adjective) family abound. These books do not clarify anything; they confound. They add to the already overwhelming cacophony of babble that surrounds the relatively simple, straightforward, and commonsensical task of raising children, which is why raising children has become (all of the women in my audiences agree) the single most stressful and anxiety-ridden thing a female will undertake in her entire life. Because of said books, many parents think adjectives are more significant than the words child and family. These parents think they are raising adopteds and onlys and middles and attention-deficit-disorders and bipolars and learning-disableds and so on, the inevitable consequences of which include adjective anxiety, disciplinary paralysis, and atrophy of the commonsense gland. Needless to say, parents who fit this description also have great difficulty bringing any humor to the child-rearing process.

All children should be raised according to common principles, foremost of which is that parents should balance love and discipline in training children toward becoming productive, responsible members of society. Maintaining said balance requires that a parent’s love be disciplined and that discipline reflect love and desire for the best interests of the child. Commonsense wraps itself neatly around the word “child”; it does not wrap itself well at all around words like “adopted.” Adjectives are much more slippery than nouns, after all.

As a child is a child, a family is a family. The First Rule of Family Living is that the husband-wife relationship trumps all other family relationships. Husband and wife should pay far more attention to one another than they do the children; they should do more for one another than they do for the children; their relationship should be more active than the relationship either of them has with any child. In other words, marriage comes before family and family comes before children, in blendeds as well as non-blendeds, Amen.

If the family is headed by a parent who is single (note: as opposed to a single-parent family) the parent needs to have active extra-family relationships as well as an array of active interests that do not include his/her kids. This helps the children understand that their relationship with their dad/mom is not a substitute marriage.

A blended-wife/mother recently asked me for an example of what she could do to let her daughter know that her marriage came first.

“The next time your daughter asks you permission to do something,” I said, “tell her that you’ll ask her stepfather about it when he gets home.”

She laughed and said, “That’ll blow her mind.” If so, it’s high time for the blowing to commence.

I spoke with authority on the subject because I was raised in what is today called a “blended family.” I called my stepfather “Dad,” I suppose because I intuitively realized that he was more of a father to me than he was a step-anything. Besides, children should not be allowed to call adults by their first names, so anything but “Dad” was out of the question. Likewise, I referred and still refer to the children of both my mother’s and father’s second marriages as my brothers and sisters. That made for, and continues to make for, a much simpler view of life not to mention more rewarding family relationships. That also makes me the oldest child in two families, an honor most people cannot claim.

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