raising children, raising parents

spaced-out drug userlin over at telling it like it is has an article on 10 ways to raise children to use drugs. examples:

  • encourage insecurity by telling them to keep secrets from other family members or family secrets from others
  • avoid touching, hugging, and taking time to interact with your children.
  • disregard their physical needs.
  • ignore their worthwhile and constructive habits

it’s a perfect prescription for unhappiness, period – a child who grows up in an environment like this may not necessarily get into drugs but will be guaranteed to have other problems.

it again reminds me of gabor maté’s book, in the realm of hungry ghosts – close encounters with addiction. as i’ve mentioned before, this canadian doctor makes the case that many problems with addiction stem from not only an unhappy childhood but also from pregnancy, where the brain undergoes its formation.

as a counsellor, i have worked with people with very, very serious addiction problems. there was not a one among them who did not grow up in a difficult environment.

conversely, people who grew up in an environment that would score well according to lin’s list: they’re not always angels, they may experiment with drugs for a while, they may have a bit of a brush with the law – but they always seem to be able to right themselves after a while, they seem to have a buffer that prevents them from reaching a bottom that isn’t really a bottom, it’s a neverending pit.

having said all this, we need to look at the parents. parents do not want to be angry all the time, give in to ridiculous demands, ignore the consequences of their children’s behaviour, show low self worth and all the other things on lin’s list. parents who behave like that are clearly unhappy people who need just as much support, encouragement, education and love as their children do.

it takes a village to raise a good parent.

(image by murplej@ane)

7 thoughts on “raising children, raising parents

  1. ashok

    Agreed entirely. Two questions:

    1. How do we work to make sure the encouragement we give doesn’t sound hollow, that it really is meant?

    2. Parents, moreso than adults generally, tend to be set in their ways. They kinda have to be in order to wield authority or even just feel that they’re being consistent, at least. How do we get them to be more open-minded but also keep them feeling secure?

    ashok’s last blog post..Is Love Possible? On Dickinson’s “I could suffice for Him, I knew…” (643)

  2. isabella mori

    hey ashok …

    i’d say that these two questions are related, to some degree at least. someone who truly feels secure enjoys encouraging others (unless, perhaps, they’re true-blue sociopaths).

    you say “parents, more so than adults generally, tend to be set in their ways”. i’d like to challenge that. there are parents who are that way but then there are also others who feel that reacting to the challenges of child-rearing by becoming more open-minded.

    in my case, for example, i’ve really learned that i need to “pick my battles” and let the rest go. wanna die your hair pink and wear tons of black goth make-up? sure, go ahead. but staying out until 2 o’clock in the morning when you’re 13? sorry, that’s where we’ll have to draw the line.

    “how to we get them to be more open-minded but also keep them feeling secure?” good question, worthy of yet another post. but one thing i think is important: when parents are “babies” (i.e. when they just have their first child), it is terribly unhelpful to heap all kinds of advice on them. they need to be supported in trusting their guts, in experimenting with this new, huge task. hm, maybe it’s about “picking battles” again.

    i’d be very interested to hear what other parents have to say …

  3. New Age Bitch

    I absolutely agree. In Western cultures today’s parents are left twisting in the wind, alone and isolated. There is little support, except as a thin facade hiding the competition underneath. Parents are left clueless about how to manage their own emotions, let alone deal with the undeniably huge obligation most parents feel to “do right” by their children. Parents can’t model for their kids what they don’t know how to do themselves.

    If we had, instead, a society that VALUES real parenting, and values children and all societal members as viable functioning elements of the whole, then the support would be there for parents and children alike. It’s a long way off, though.

    New Age Bitch’s last blog post..Let’s get personal…

  4. Lin

    Hi Isabella,

    Being a parent is in some ways like a trapeze artist walking a tight rope without a net. Every parent has their own values, beliefs etc as well as experiences of their own growing up that may or may not have provided parents the tools (or safety net) needed to raise their own children in a healthy environment.

    It then becomes necessary for parents to carefully consider what of their past childhood experiences they will or will not do in parenting their own children, especially in regards to abusive childhoods.

    We are, as they say, products of our environment, but even if parents were raised in an unhealthy (even abusive) environment themselves, they can decide not to be the kind of parent they experienced and learn how to become a loving, giving, nurturing, responsible parent.

    No parent, regardless of age, should ever allow themselves to become “stuck in their ways”, wherein they refuse any suggestions or advice of techniques to consider in parenting.

    Doing something differently with their children, perhaps something suggested that has never been considered or thought of previously, can many times help parents get the results desired.

    Lin’s last blog post..101 Best Children’s Books – Classic Children’s Books

  5. isabella mori

    @new age bitch: “parents can’t model for their kids what they don’t know how to do themselves.” exactly. parenting is an intensely emotional experience, and when push comes to shove, parents often do what everyone else does: regress, get defensive, etc.

    @lin, i totally agree that it would be good if parents carefully considered their parenting choices, and didn’t get “stuck in their ways”. however, what if thinking like that never entered their minds? or if they carefully considered everything except their own huge blind spots?

    that is, i think, where the “village” comes in, to support, and to gently help them open up and grow up as parents.

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