Ray Guarendi

Ray Guarendi

October 12, 2015
DEBORAH GYAPONG
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS

A popular American psychologist and author said he hopes the bishops attending the Synod on the Family in Rome will address the importance of strong fathers in the family.

"I think they need to emphasize dads taking a much more faithful leadership role," said clinical psychologist Ray Guarendi in a recent interview.

"We guys have a tendency to leave it up to the women and the research concludes that a strong male figure is something much needed for the development of boys and girls."

Guarendi is an author of over a dozen books and CD compilations, a public speaker, radio and television host and frequent guest on popular TV programs such as Oprah.

The media maven said he expected the Synod fathers will "reiterate as a group the traditional God-design of men and women, passing on the faith and life to the children. I think, so often in the history of the Church, we've seen they've had to speak about things that used to be taken for granted," said Guarendi.

The father of 10 adopted children, the psychologist said, "Now they have to reinforce it and people are thinking they are going to come up with something new. No, they are simply saying, given certain societal movements, we had better reinforce this."

Guarendi said those who expect Pope Francis to "make some dramatic changes in Catholic moral teaching are going to be greatly disappointed.

"As he (the pope) has said, he is a son of the Church," the psychologist said. "People confuse his pastoral style with a view that the Church needs to alter itself. You take a complete Pope Francis and that's not the way it is."

A Catholic, whose wife is a convert to the faith, Guarendi offered many practical tips of how parental leadership in the home can produce a happy family and good results for children.

Speaking to parents, in a talk entitled Back to the Family : Building a Stronger, Happier Family, Guarendi challenged some of the popular advice coming from experts on how to raise children.

Some examples of the advice he sees: 'Never tell a toddler 'No" or "Do not ever send a teenager to their room for a punishment." That kind of advice from "people with letters after their names" is nonsense," he said.

In the 1990s, Guarendi and other experts fanned out across the United States to all 50 states to interview 107 parents selected by the National-State Teachers of the Year as heading "outstanding families." These families had a combined 387 children.

QUIET EXPERTS

The results were compiled in his book Back to the Family, which featured "America's quiet experts."

The number one house rule in these families is respect, Guarendi said. Yet today's experts have "told you you have to let your kids express themselves."

This has resulted in a phenomenon he calls "battered parent syndrome."

"If you are wondering whether your child is disrespectful or expressing himself, try doing the exact same thing to your boss, your best friend or your mother-in-law," he said. Try saying "Whatever!" or rolling your eyes, he said. Then ask them afterwards if they still like you.

He said he came home to find one of his daughters busy cleaning the first floor of the house with at least two hours of labour ahead of her. He asked his wife what she had done, his wife said, "She rolled her eyes."

Guarendi stressed the punishment is not so much that the behaviour is so bad, but that "Mom is so valued.

While handing out labour as punishment is one consequence of disrespect, Guarendi said he is a fan of assigning essay assignments on respect, apologies, "Why you are grateful to live here," or "All that Mom does for yoou.

The most frustrating problem for these good families was the "incredible frequency" of what Guarendi called "sibling quibbling."

I LOVE MY BROTHER

One mother said she came home to find her two sons in the front yard hanging on each other and saying, "I love my brother," over and over again. Their father had told them to "Put your arm around each other and say it," or "You are grounded until your wedding rehearsal."

While sibling quibbling is perfectly normal, it is "not good," and "not right," he said. But similar rules of respect relate to how siblings treat each other as how they treat their parents.

Guarendi stressed the importance of parents' taking authority in the home. "Children view us as someone they can challenge," he said.

For children who are defiant, the psychologist recommended a full blackout on all the privileges the child receives in the home, except for basic nutrition. When the child loses his favourite TV program, toys, books, dessert in succession, that sends a message.

ANGRY SON

Although six of their children were adopted as infants, four had bad histories of neglect and time in foster care. This included a set of twins he and his wife adopted at age four.

The boy of the twins used to kick his foster parents and even Guarendi when he visited prior to being taken into their home.

When it came time for bed, the boy melted down into a full tantrum.

"I had to let him know there are some non-negotiable things and going to bed is one of them," Guarendi said.

He carried the boy to bed and gently held him down until he stopped fighting and realized he would have to obey.