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  • They do their homework on time. Their writing is neat. They keep their bedroom tidy. They

  • are often a little shy. They want to help their parents. They use their brakes when

  • cycling down a hill. Because they don't pose many immediate problems, we tend to assume

  • all is well with good children. They aren't the target for particular concern. That goes

  • to the kids who are graffiting the underpass. People imagine the good children are fine,

  • because they do everything that's expected of them. And that, of course, is precisely

  • the problem. The secret sorrowsand future difficultiesof the good boy or girl begin

  • with their inner need for excessive compliance. The good child isn't good because by a quirk

  • of nature they simply have no inclination to be anything else. They are good because

  • they have no other option. Their goodness is a necessity rather than a choice. Many

  • good children are good out of love of a depressed harassed parent who makes it clear they just

  • couldn't cope with any more complications or difficulties. Or maybe they are very good

  • to soothe a violently angry parent who could become catastrophically frightening at any

  • sign of less than perfect conduct.

  • But this sort of repression of more challenging emotions, though it produces short-term pleasant obedience,

  • stores up a huge amount of difficulty in later life. Practiced educators and parents should

  • spot signs of exaggerated politenessand treat it as the grave danger it really is. The good

  • child becomes a keeper of too many secrets and an appalling communicator of unpopular

  • but important things. They say lovely words, they are experts in satisfying the expectations

  • of their audiences, but their real thoughts and feelings stay buried and then generate

  • psychosomatic symptoms, twitches, sudden outbursts and sulphurous bitterness. The sickness of

  • the good child is that they have no experience of other people being able to tolerate their

  • badness. They have missed out a vital privilege accorded to the healthy child; that of being

  • able to display envious, greedy, ego-maniacal sides and yet be tolerated and loved nevertheless.

  • The good person typically has particular problems around sex. As a child, they may have been

  • praised for being pure and innocent. As they become an adult however, like all of us, they

  • discover the ecstasies of sex, which can be beautifully perverse and excitingly disgusting.

  • But this may be radically at odds with the picture of what they believe they are allowed

  • to be like. They may in response disavow their desires, go cold and detached from their bodies

  • or perhaps give in to their longings only in a disproportionate way that is destructive

  • to other bits of their lives and leaves them disgusted and frightened. At work, the good

  • adult has problems too. As a child, they follow the rules. Never make trouble and take care

  • not to annoy anyone. But following the rules won't get you very far in adult life. Almost

  • everything that's interesting, worth doing or important will meet with a degree of opposition.

  • A brilliant idea will always disappoint certain peopleand yet very much be worth holding

  • on to. The good child is condemned to career mediocrity and sterile people-pleasing. Being

  • properly mature involves a frank, unfrightened relationship with one's own darksides, complexity

  • and ambition. It involves accepting that not everything that makes us happy will please

  • others or be honored as especially "nice" by societybut that it can be important

  • to explore and hold on to it nevertheless. The desire to be good is one of the loveliest

  • things in the world, but in order to have a genuinely good life, we may sometimes need

  • to be, by the standards of the good child, fruitfully and bravely bad.

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They do their homework on time. Their writing is neat. They keep their bedroom tidy. They

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The Dangers of the Good Child

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    Anita Lin posted on 2017/05/30
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