WHAT A CHILD NEEDS AND WHAT WE OFTEN LEARN INSTEAD AS WE GROW UP
“EVERYONE ALWAYS DOES THEIR BEST”
To know that you are proud of him
To know that you will give him what he needs
To know that you will provide boundaries suitable to his stage of development
To know that you trust him and value his opinion
To feel useful.
Kindness (without being soppy or condescending)
To know the truth and that his parents are being true to themselves
To have wholesome natural food available and self determination about his choice of when and what to eat (to eat for his own needs rather than to suit or please others)
To be able to depend on your affection, love and support even when you disagree with his choices - it’s his life
To have you available for advice, to go and sort out problems he may have with other people, to listen
To get to know you
To have his inner drive respected and allowed to remain intact
To be able to experiment and to have a place to climb and exercise
To develop his independence at his own pace
To be spoken to with respect, thanked and apologised to when appropriate
How much of that did you get as you were growing up?
Unfortunately many parents are not emotionally mature themselves - in some ways it seems odd that the physical body carries on maturing whether the emotional maturity is on a par with it or not. Having said that gross immaturity is easy to observe because it does have an obvious physical reflection, it follows therefore that there are physical signs of emotional immaturity and we need to sharpen our powers of observation to detect them. I do feel that I can now recognise the inner person from the outer body. Some of this due to the greater sensitivity I have gained from the changes in my own life and personality, some of it from bitter experience!
What may have happened to your parents as they grew up?
It is helpful to be able to see the difficulties our parents had but it does not remove the lack of caring we felt at the time, and we need to feel justified in our disappointment and anger that we did not get what we needed. Our needs are not related to our parents’ ability to give. We need to accept the point we have reached in order to proceed. So, it is useful to consider the everyday words and actions of our upbringing - your parents may still be talking to you like that today, No wonder you’d sometimes rather not visit them. Things said to us many times throughout our upbringing are the basis for our beliefs about ourselves and our capabilities. They run like a tape in our heads: we hear them in our inner voices criticising and cajoling, we have absorbed their truths as our own, they form our reality, our yardstick to measure new experiences and because they are always there we do not question them.
Once we see our parents as other humans with problems - and parents of their own, we can observe their coping mechanisms based on the ideas about the way best to live their lives given to them by their parents. It is sometimes illuminating to think about the conditions in our parents’ lives when we were conceived and very young babies - and their parents in turn because we can then see what was important then may not be so any longer. Their lives may have been ruled by the restrictions of wartime, or religions which do not presently affect us, but to understand them explains why our parents were the way they were. The next step is to see that they did the best they could in the circumstances, and then see that it may not have been what we needed. Then we can sense what we missed, how we felt and allow ourselves the natural grief and anger that we did not have our needs met, resulting in a low opinion of ourselves and the belief that they did not love us - of course they did, they were doing the best they knew how. Worry and fear really influence people’s ability to parent their children satisfactorily, even if the fear is coming from a belief within rather than an outside threat. When we are worried we fail to listen to what others need, a short term threat overrides the long term need of a child to receive adequate creative attention on a daily basis. Over a long period this damages the child’s ability to communicate his needs and belief that his opinion or presence in the world matters. A child knows when his presence in the world is welcome or just tolerated. The child who knows he was an accident feels intrusive and unwelcome. The child of parents who wished for a child of the opposite sex will go to extraordinary lengths to try to make up for his or her failure to be what parents wanted. As a child I was often called clumsy and I only recently realised that I am a very careful person compared with most people; but I was brought up in family of extremely careful people so I appeared clumsy to them. I noticed that 1 was suggesting that one of my children was messy and untidy, then a child from another family came to stay and despite her best endeavour was much messier than ALL of my children, and I realised the message to me. I know someone who comes from a quiet family and was always considered noisy and extroverted by them. She got pushed to take on roles in public which she was uncertain about because the label only worked within the family circle and in fact she feels under pressure because of their expectations of her.
despite her best endeavour was much messier than ALL of my children, and I realised the message to me. I know someone who comes from a quiet family and was always considered noisy and extroverted by them. She got pushed to take on roles in public which she was uncertain about because the label only worked within the family circle and in fact she feels under pressure because of their expectations of her.
It is interesting to listen to what family members say to one another. I listen to them on the bus and in queues. The use of threats to make children behave in a certain way is very common, and they are usually empty... from “ I’ll kill you in a minute if you don’t stop” or “I’ll murder you” to “You’ll be walking home if you don’t sit down” and “No one will want to play with you if you cry”. Threats of what other people will do, say or think without any consultation are very common. The child learns to be afraid in case any of these things do happen - part of him wants to believe that his parents tell the truth - and he learns to mistrust what he is told. The use of bribes if a child is “good” has a similar effect and I was recently discussing the effect this had on a child with a friend. Part of the problem is that the child usually has to guess what is expected of him (just what does being good mean and does everyone agree on a definition?) and is often a completely unreasonable expectation of a young child (like sitting still or quietly for a long period). If you were a well-behaved child at school and the teacher said you would all go for a walk in the park in the afternoon if you were good children you would have restrained yourself or finished your work or whatever was required. If you were brought up in a family where people generally meant what they said, you would see it as a worthwhile aim. How do you feel now when you realise that the teacher was going to take you all anyway and even the naughty children who didn’t finish their work went too? Quite a lot of what we learn is built on premises of this sort and it can be upsetting to realise that there is not after all a causative effect as we believed - or were led to believe - between our actions and reward by others. This belief about cause and effect is widespread in abusive relationships where one partner seems to have power over the other. A woman who is injured by her partner often believes that she must have done something “wrong” to make him beat her - even if she has been making sure that she does everything she thinks he wants because he’s done it before. She may spend ages trying to work out what it was so that she can feel he is justified and she’s not living with an unreasonable man. Relationships are based on our experiences of them so far in our lives.
So how would a child be if it did get all those things it needed? Think about what your life would be like.