Fitzhugh Dodson; Wrote Parental Advice Books


Fitzhugh Dodson, a clinical psychologist and educator who wrote the best-selling advice books “How to Parent” and “How to Father,” has died. He was 69.

Dodson died Sunday of heart failure at the Alamitos Belmont Rehabilitation Hospital in Long Beach, his family said.

In his first book, published in 1970, Dodson introduced the now-popular use of parent as a verb, defining it as “to use with tender loving care all the information science has accumulated about child psychology in order to raise happy and intelligent human beings.”


A onetime Presbyterian minister who during his career taught every grade from preschool to graduate school, Dodson sometimes surprised inquirers with his blunt advice.

The best discipline? “Spanking, that’s what I recommend,” he told The Times in 1970.

“I don’t recommend guilt-inducing lectures,” he said. “Spanking lets the child know you don’t like his behavior, and it clears the air. It also ventilates the parent’s emotions too.”

Getting a child to eat? “Let him be hungry,” he said.

In reviewing Dodson’s popular 1974 cartoon-illustrated parenting book, “How to Father,” Times critic Ruth C. Ikerman wrote, “The prose and pictures together with detailed appendix about toys, books and records make serious psychological material as readable as an exciting travel adventure or novel.”

Born the son of a stockbroker in Baltimore, Md., Fitzhugh James Dodson earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Johns Hopkins University, a bachelor of divinity degree from Yale University and a doctorate in psychology from USC. He was ordained in 1948 as a Presbyterian minister and served for two years in a Portland pastorate.

Dodson spent more than a quarter of a century in the private practice of clinical psychology in Redondo Beach. In addition to teaching at many institutions, he co-founded and operated La Primera Schools in Torrance during the 1960s.

Dodson’s other books included “Dr. Dodson’s Whiz-Bang, Super-Economy Parent’s Survival Kit” in 1971, “The You That Could Be” in 1976, “How to Discipline, With Love: From Crib to College” in 1977, and “I Wish I Had a Computer That Makes Waffles: Teaching Your Child with Modern Nursery Rhymes” in 1978.


He also co-wrote “How to Grandparent” in 1981 and “Your Child: Pregnancy through Preschool” in 1986.

Dodson was married twice, to Grace Goheen and Cecilia Kovacs.

He is survived by three children from his first marriage, Robin Ellyn Dodson of Champaign-Urbana, Ill., Randall James Dodson of Santa Cruz, and Rustin Fitzhugh Dodson of Santa Barbara.