Parenting – Introduction
Certainly we have all been exposed to bad parenting on occasion. The parent screaming at or striking a small child, or ignoring a child when it is in distress. These are obvious cases and hardly need to be pointed out to the majority of parents. Or so one would think. However, there are plenty of well meaning parents who at times find themselves at times thinking about, if not doing just these things. How can we avoid being bad parents? What does it mean to be a “good” or “bad” parent anyway?
While I can look back on my own upbringing as an (imperfect) model, and my psychiatric/psychological/psychoanalytic training and experience for guidance, it is only since my daughter was born that I have begun to feel some confidence that I really know what I am talking about in an authentic way, and the urge to pass on my felt knowledge has become more powerful.
Normally, I am the type of therapist who tries to refrain from giving advice to my patients. I might offer suggestions or more often explore options, but only in rare circumstances will I actually try to tell someone what to do. Acute depression, or psychosis might be examples. Usually, and particularly with my longer term therapy or analytic patients I do my best to allow them to discover their own answers. I have found the results to be more long lasting and powerful that way. The downside is the (often painful) time it can take for people to discover the “right” answer for themselves.
I have decided that in the case of parenting, I should be open with my patients and the world about what I feel is the “right” way to go about it. The stakes are just too high, in terms of children suffering or not reaching their potential, for me not to offer guidance.
And of course, children grow up. The sequelae of poor parenting and difficult childhoods are echoed throughout adulthood, and then unconsciously passed on to future generations. In my practice, and in my own analysis, I have traced these sequelae back to their roots time and again.
Notice the word “unconsciously” in the above paragraph. In my experience, Most parenting (and indeed most conscious activity) is based on unconscious patterning. Social, familial patterning which we are usually almost totally unaware of and simply label as “normal” if we even think about it at all. Thus, unless we have had a “good enough” analysis, we parent in an unconscious reinactment of or possibly a semi-conscious reaction to the way we ourselves were parented.
Unfortunately, a “good enough analysis” is not easy to get. Analysis is time consuming, expensive, and often painful, not to mention how difficult it is to find someone capable to do the work with. Certainly, this series of blog postings is not going to substitute for an analysis. I cannot speak to you through this medium and show you why, given your particular life circumstace, you tend to over or under react to some particular situation in your life. After all, I don’t know you, and even if I did, I might choose to let you find out for yourself (perhaps with some hints here and there).
But all is not lost. I wouldn’t be typing this if I didn’t think “good enough parenting” was possible without a “good enough analysis”. In fact, knowing why one does what one does doesn’t tell us what we “should” do! (It does, however, tend to broaden our range of acceptable options.)
The answer, I feel, lies in the development and nurturance of certain parental attitudes. As these attitudes first are accepted, then strengthened, they can act as a kind of ballast which will help right the ship of our parent-child interactions when we find ourselves unbalanced by unconscious or external disruptive forces.
I hope you will read the coming series of articles in an open minded way. Ponder them and see if you ultimately feel them to be valid. If you don’t feel what I’m saying to be true, its unlikely to make a sustained impact or evoke change. Sit with the positive resonance for awhile when you feel it.
Some of you may react negatively to some of what I’m going to tell you. If so, please sit with it for awhile and try to verbalize the feeling thats troubling you. Perhaps this can be a catalyst for a bit of self-analysis.
In any event, if you have a reaction you’d like to share, feel free to email me. Feedback is welcome. I look at this, like my life in general, as a work in progress.