In October I was asked to provide some training for the teachers in a primary school. When the children are on holidays it is customary in the UK for teachers to receive training. The topic they wanted me to talk about was ‘how to handle difficult conversations with parents’. We had a really good day. Yesterday I got another request from the Head Teacher asking me to come back and run a session on how to deal with anxiety, OCD and depression. Normally this would be no problem for me. This is my area. What shocked me was that these behaviours are being observed in children as young as 5 years of age and the teachers don’t know what to do.
One in ten children in the western world suffer from mental disorders and that is just the ones we know about. This is unacceptable because a lot of this suffering is avoidable. The problem is that I can train teachers and they will do the best they can. If a child as young as five is suffering from anxiety then call me old fashioned but the first place I am going to look is at the parents. It is a strong statement to make but the reason I say it is because I see the children at the other end. I see them as adults. They arrive at my practice or on training courses. On the surface they are very ‘successful’ but scratch a little deeper and they are desperately unhappy, overly concerned about what everyone else thinks about them, highly competitive and constantly comparing themselves to others. As one client put it “inside I feel nothing but emptiness”.
Features of pushy parent
-These parents are typically over achievers and they expect their children to be the same at whatever age. They can be seen carting their exhausted children from one activity to another. On the surface these parent come across as model parents wanting only the best for their children. Unfortunately what they want is the admiration of strangers at the expense of their own children. Behide closed doors they ridicule their children, threaten them, and withdraw affection if and when the children do not match up to their high expectations.
They say… “After all I have done for you…and you’re so ungrateful.”
The children of such parents have nowhere to go with this constant bombardment and so they take it to the classroom.
-The worst thing about it is that pushy parents do not see their children as human beings. They see them as extensions of themselves. Once the parent has decided that the child will be a doctor, a lawyer or an accountant then that is what they will be regardless of whether the child likes the idea or has the aptitude for the subject or not. Many pushy parents put their child’s name down for schools and university at birth. The poor child stands no chance of having any say in their own life.
They say… “If my son doesn’t grow up to be a doctor…lawyer…engineer like his father he will let the side down”
Some pushy parents are obsessed about exam results. They confuse passing exams with education and they confuse education with the ability to think. Their children after a full day at school will have to endure all sorts of after school curriculum in order to get the A* that the parents need to obtain bragging rights. These children grow up with lots of paper qualifications but have no interpersonal and communication skills whatsoever.
They say…“You have opportunities I’ve never had when I was your age…After you have your degree you can do what you want. If you want to live in this house… you do as I say!”
The pushy parent considers themselves better than other parents. This sense of grandiose entitlement, however, is almost exclusively based on superficial, egotistical, and material trappings, and obtained at the expense of their children’s needs. Closely related to grandiosity, many pushy parents love to show others how “special” their children are. They love to tell anyone who will listen how brilliant little so and so is. They see their children as trophies and they love the reflected glory of their offspring’s activities and achievements. They go out of their way to seek ego-boosting attention and flattery.
They say…“Meenah is such a good girl…she is grade 8 in piano and she practices for 2 hours every night after she has gone her homework”
A common theme is that love is given as a conditional reward for performance or good behaviour, rather than the natural expression of healthy parenting. On the other hand, the withholding of love is used as threat and punishment.
They say…“Your behavior is a disgrace to the family.” Or “Why can’t you be more like your brother?”
Things that good parents do
-They create an environment where their children can develop a sense of who they are and grow into well-adjusted, erudite human beings who can think for themselves. Buying them stuff is not good parenting. Taking them on trips no matter how exotic is not good parenting.
-They know that a child’s ‘day job’ is learning and that everyone learns in different ways and at different speeds. The good parent instils in a child that no matter what happens they are loved. This is what builds a child’s self-esteem and confidence to be happy in their own skin rather than a ‘mini me’ of the parents.
-They recognises that children need to be a little bored once in a while. From boredom they will gravitate to find their own interests.
-They never stop learning, they learn with their children and they make it fun.
talk to your children. Talk about what’s going on in the world. Ask for their opinion about things. Tell them about what you are doing. Talk about feelings. Keep a dialogue going at all times….and start early. Too often parents do not know their children. They have no idea what is going on in their minds.
I’ll leave you with this beautiful poem. This was a poem that my therapy teacher read when she was teaching child development. Back then I didn’t have a child but it still made a lasting impression on me and hopefully influenced the way that I raised my own son.