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Strangely, and rather awkwardly, it seems no human being can ever really grow up sane
unless it has been loved very deeply by someone for a number of years in its early life.
But we're still learning what parental love might actually involve. So how good were your
parents? Here are eight principles of good parenting you can use to grade them.
- Attunement A loving parent gets down to the child's
level - at times literally, dropping to their height when addressing them - in order to
see the world through their eyes. They understand that a very young child cannot easily fit
in with external demands and that, in the early days, they must be prioritised and placed
at the center of things, not in order to 'spoil' them, but in order to give them a chance to
- 'Small Things' Loving parents understand that their young
offspring's lives revolve around details that are, by any adult measure, very minor.
Toddlers will feel enormously happy because they can dig their nails into some putty or
have a chance to wack their spoon into some peas with energy or say 'bah' very loudly;
and they will feel extremely sad because pet rabbit lost one of its buttons or a page in
a favourite book now has a tear in it. The good enough parent feels sufficiently resourceful
inside itself not to hold it against the child that it is making a very big deal out of so-called
'nothing'. It will follow the child in its excitement over a puddle and it in its
grief over an uncomfortable sock. It understands that the child's future ability to be considerate
to other people and to handle genuine disasters will be critically dependent on having had
its ample fill of sympathy for a range of age-appropriate sorrows.
- Forgiveness A loving parent will know how to put the best
possible interpretation on behaviour that might seem to others unfortunate and grating:
the small child isn't 'a troublemaker', but it has of course been very upset by the
arrival of its sibling. It isn't 'antisocial' but it does find a small circle of familiar
people especially soothing. It isn't a 'nightmare' but it does surely need to go to bed very
soon. This capacity for imaginative kindly explanations will go on to mould the workings
of the child's own conscience; it will learn the art of self-forgiveness. It won't have
to torture itself for its mistakes. It won't suffer the ravages of self-loathing or ever,
when it messed up badly, be tempted to take its own life.
- Strange Phases The loving parent will feel sufficiently sane
to allow a child to be weird for a while, knowing that so-called weird is part of normal
development. It won't get flustered that the child has decided to pretend it is an
animal or wants to eat only red-coloured foods or has an imaginary friend living in the tree
at the end of the garden. The adult will have faith in sanity emerging - and in the wisdom
of exploring a lot of possible options before choosing to settle on reason. It will be able
to remain calm over some intense tantrums and obsessions, it won't need to shut down
irreverence at every turn, it will be patient around low moods and unruffled by adolescent
the parent won't assign labels to the child that might fix it in a role it was only trying
out. It will be wary of telling a child that it is 'the angry one', 'the little philosopher'
or even 'the kind one': it will allow the child the luxury of picking its own identity.
- Clinginess The good parent knows that children may well
cling for a long while, and will never dismiss this natural need for reassurance in pejorative
terms. It won't tell the child to buck up and be a 'good little man' or 'young
lady who can make me proud'. It will know that those who end up securely attached and
able to tolerate absence are those who were originally allowed to have as much dependence
and connection as they needed. There will be few requests to be 'brave' at the school
- Perfection A good parent won't set themselves up as
impossibly glamorous or remote, a figure whom a child might be tempted to idealise and ruminate
over from afar. They will know how to be present and very ordinary around the house; dignified
perhaps but also on occasion ratty, forgetful, silly and greedily keen to have too much desert.
The good parent will know that parental quirks and flaws are there to remind a child to reconcile
itself to its own humanity - and also eventually to leave home and get on with their own lives.
- Boringness A good parent will know how to appear very
boring. It will understand that what a child chiefly needs is a source of reliable calm,
not fireworks and excitement (it has enough of these inside its own mind). It should be
there, in the same place, saying more or less the same things, for decades. It should take
care to be predictable and to edit out its surprising moods, the child doesn't need
a full picture of every perturbance and temptation coursing through its carers' minds. The
parent accepts that 'mummy' or 'daddy' are roles, not full representations; it should
be the privilege of every child not to have to know its parents in complete detail.
- Unreciprocated Love The good parent isn't looking for a balanced
relationship. It is happy to give unilaterally. It doesn't need to be asked how its day
was or what it thinks of the government's new policy on insurance. It knows that a child
should be able to take a parent substantially for granted. The parent's reward for all
their work won't ever be direct; it will arrive by noting, in many years time, that
their child has developed into a very good parent themselves.
Put simply: love is the considerate, tender, hugely patient behaviour displayed by an adult
over many years towards a child who cannot help but be largely out of control, confused,
frustrating and bewildered - in order that it might over time grow into an adult who
can take its place in society without too much of a loss of spontaneity, without too
much terror and with a basic trust in its own capacities and chances of fulfilment.
It should be a matter of global consternation that, despite our many advances, we are still
only at the dawn of knowing how to ensure that we all have the loving childhoods
we deserve.
How to overcome your childhood is a book that teaches us how character is developed, the concept of emotional inheritance, the formation of concepts of being good or bad and the impact of parental styles on the way we choose adult partners
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A Test to Judge How Good Your Parents Were

3 Folder Collection
Summer published on July 30, 2020
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