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Who is responsible?

I just read an article (it's long, but oh so good!) where a therapist (Lori Gottlieb - also author of "Marry him, the case for settling for Mr Good Enough") was discussing how she had come to realise a lot of her sad, lost patients had been raised by loving, caring parents who put a lot of emphasis on supporting their child and praising their child in an effort to build their child's self-esteem. This therapist had realised those parents were doing what she and her colleagues were doing with their own children in order to prevent the kinds of mental and emotional damage they were couselling many of their patients over.

Anyway, this was all discussed on a parenting forum, and it wasn't long before someone said, "More parent bashing, always blaming the parents"...

Yes, well, as a parent I know full-well that feeling of standing in a shopping centre with an overwrought small person who is simply losing it because it's 4pm/we're not stopping at the toy shop/they've just started dropping their afternoon nap (or all three) and having uncountable numbers of judging eyes scanning me from top to toe for clues as to how I failed as a parent. It's not nice.

Image: source
At the same time, let's not get so lost down the path of "You can't blame the parents" thinking that we completely deny the fact that our greatest influencers from birth until adulthood are, in fact, our parents - both biologically (nature) and sociologically (nurture).

"Blame" is an awful word, but you know, it's also often used incorrectly - a bit like "ignorance" - you see, you can't be "to blame" if you didn't have a clue that you needed to act differently. You can only be held to account if you had information and just ignored it because it's easier to maintain the status quo without considering it might be the root cause of issues you're having now, or might have in the future.

It's a bit like the legal reference to intent. Intent is connotative of planning one's action ahead of time for a specific outcome.

So, if you read that some parenting practice you've implemented with the best of intentions turns out to be detrimental to your child, you cannot be BLAMED for creating the negative outcome - nor should you blame yourself. If however, you are presented with information suggesting the path you've chosen is likely to have a negative outcome and you continue down that path without seriously weighing up the validity of those claims, then if the path ends badly, you probably could be blamed.

It is fair enough for parents to demand respect and to not be judged by their children's actions alone - however, parents must also accept that they are the biggest influencers of their own children (mittigating circumstances such as accidents, illness and disorders aside) and to that end, we need to accept that some of our children's issues are as a result of our parenting choices.

NB: Just on the article itself. If the therapist had read "The Aware Baby" by Aletha Solter or "The Continuum Concept" by Jean Leidloff, she might have saved herself some time. Both espouse early attachment which allows the child to express themselves whether content or discontent, and emphasises the child's need to develop beyond completely dependent babyhood into semi-independent childhood and all the way through to completely independent adulthood - this is the "middle ground" the therapist seemed to feel was missing. To me, this is common sense, but that is because I don't believe a person can or should be happy 100% of the time, I don't believe in painless living - pain is what let's us know when things are good, or even great. Happiness is transient which is what makes it so precious when it happens. Something we have all the time will always be devalued and become less precious to us - that should never happen to happiness!


That was so interesting.

Teaching kids to be comfortable in their own discomfort does far more good for them than taking all avenues to avoid anything but happiness and selfishness.

The aim of independent adulthood is critical in parenting, I think. When mixed with some freaky parenting however, arrggghhhh.
Melissa said…
Beautifully written. You can't have light without the dark. Extremes in everything, no matter how uncomfortable, is what makes a life.
Sif said…
Thanks for the comments. It's hard being a parent without feeling as if you're chasing your tail with regard to "best practice", but moderation - once again - seems to be key.

I really do believe in the "balance of all things", if you can keep things more or less in balance (because perfection isn't human, right), then for the most part, you should be okay... Right?

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