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Dr. Brad Sachs knows what it's like for parents. Your son or daughter often turns out to be the child of your dreams. In The Good Enough Child, this uite different from the experienced and respected psychologist eases you down the unpredictable path of child-rearing, offering lively anecdotes, practical strategies, and hands-on exercises that will help you to develop realistic expectations of your family, and to understand, forgive, and accept them in spite of their imperfections. The result is ...
Dr. Brad Sachs knows what it's like for parents. Your son or daughter often turns out to be the child of your dreams. In The Good Enough Child, this uite different from the experienced and respected psychologist eases you down the unpredictable path of child-rearing, offering lively anecdotes, practical strategies, and hands-on exercises that will help you to develop realistic expectations of your family, and to understand, forgive, and accept them in spite of their imperfections. The result is that you will raise your children with greater clarity and compassion, and finally enjoy a loving, supportive relationship with them.
Three Jewish women get together for lunch. As they are being seated at the restaurant, one takes a deep breath and gives a long, slow "Oy." The second takes a deep breath as well and lets out a long, slow "Oy." The third takes a deep breath and says impatiently, "Ladies, I thought we agreed that when we got together, we weren't going to talk about our children."
No one can make us feel as delighted and joyous as our children do, but no one can make us feel as disappointed and upset, either. All of us enter parenthood with wishes, hopes, and expectations for our children. Amazingly, there are children who in fact make their parents' dreams come true.
Appearing at the exact moment that their mother and father wanted or needed a certain type of child, with a uniquely appealing cluster of qualities consisting of the right gender, appearance, temperament, values, and interests, they confirm all expectations, fulfill all hopes, and become ideal partners in the unfolding script of family life. There is a fortuitous fit between who they are and who their parents desire, and both experience a meshing of goals and motives that is indescribably wondrous. Even when the inevitable parenting mistakes are made, the child is able to manage without difficulties or disintegration. Everybody marvels at this completely mutual and effortless gratification, and parent and child emerge with a sense of confidence and competence that is the irrevocable result ofsuch magical reciprocity. These are, of course, the rare exceptions.
More typically, parents are, at some point along the developmental spectrum, shocked by the discrepancy between their ideal child and the unremarkable or disappointing child offered up by reality. She may come to appear unattractive or unappealing, reminding us of people we despise or parts of ourselves that we abhor. Far from being adored, she actually winds up being resented, and the guilt and worry that result cause everyone tremendous suffering, creating a climate of reproach and resentment, estrangement and misunderstanding. She withdraws hurtfully or lashes out angrily, feeling engulfed by our presence and asphyxiated by our demands, leaving us feeling rejected, both unheeded and unneeded. When this debilitating process is set into motion, the family key shifts from major to minor, love turns to war, and what may have been envisioned as a lifelong honeymoon is transformed into an unending nightmare.
Eight Self-Defeating Reactions To Our Children's Problems
When our interactions with our child culminate in feelings of personal failure rather than parental pride, we typically react in one or more of eight self-defeating ways, each of which has its short-term benefits and long-term risks. And each of these eight responses, which may seem on the surface to have been called into being because of a situation that has arisen with our child, can also tell us something about our own unresolved issues. But to hear that message about ourselves requires courage, honesty, and sometimes the kind of help that a psychotherapist can offer. Our self-defeating strategies look like this.
1) We Use Denial to Avoid Dealing with Our Feelings of Failure
The benefit of this approach is that immediate feelings of fear, grief, and anger are staved off for a time, The risks are twofold: the possibilities for closeness and exchange are greatly narrowed when a child is not seen for who she is, and the child's actual needs cannot be met and adapted to when denial clouds the parental tens.
Stephen, for example, chose not to face some of the possible explanations for his 14-year-old daughter Hannah's newly unpredictable behavior. Although she now consistently broke her curfew and came home past midnight on weekends, spent most of her free time at home in her room with the door locked, had twice been caught leaving school grounds during school hours, was suddenly getting C's and D's and even an occasional E after years of As and B's, and frequently received phone calls in the middle of the night, somehow her behavior didn't arouse any persistent suspicions that something serious might be going on.
"What consequences have there been for her coming home past curfew or missing school?" I asked during our first session, ,one that had come about only after the guidance counselor at Hannah's school had repeatedly suggested to her father that she receive a psychological evaluation.
"Well, I ground her whenever she misses a curfew, which is tough to do because she'll try to sneak out anyway. And the school handled her cutting classes by giving her Saturday school.""How do you understand Hannah's behavior and the fact that it's such a departure from what she used to be like?"
I think she's coming of age, and that she's rebelling against authority. I did it. Some of the other kids in her class do it. I suspect that's what she's doing," was Stephen's reply.
"Do you think that she might be experimenting with drugs or alcohol?"
I guess it's possible. The other day I was out back and noticed a bag under the porch. And when I looked inside, I saw that it was. filled with empty beer bottles."
"How did you handle it?"
I asked Hannah if she knew anything about it, and she said that she didn't."
"And you believed her?"
"Yes. She's always been honest. Even when she was a little girl, she could always be counted on to tell the truth."
"Any other evidence that she might be using drugs or alcohol?"
"Well, something did happen last summer, now that you mention it. Her mom and I are divorced. Her mom lives in another state with her new husband, so Hannah spends vacations and summers there. And when Hannah was coming home last August...