I just read four consecutive articles on Psychology Today, all of them bashing mothers. I will not link you to those articles. I trashed them. Parents and therapists need to stop this tirade of parent bashing and in this blog post I’ll explain why and discuss how you can be fair to yourself as a parent.
THOUGHTS ABOUT PARENT BASHING
First a quote by Augusten Burroughs, American author of Running With Scissors, a quote that most psychologists and parenting gurus would do well to think about. Then a few thoughts and some advice.
If you have one parent who loves you, even if they can’t buy you clothes, they’re so poor and they make all kinds of mistakes and maybe sometimes they even give you awful advice, but never for one moment do you doubt their love for you–if you have this, you have incredibly good fortune.
If you have two parents who love you? You have won life’s Lotto.
If you do not have parents, or if the parents you have are so broken and so, frankly, terrible that they are no improvement over nothing, this is fine.
It’s not ideal because it’s harder without adults who love you more than they love themselves. But harder is just harder, that’s all.
This is a reality based quote, not an ‘awfulizing’ quote. The psychologist Albert Ellis coined the word: ‘awfulizing’. You awfulize when you turn the proverbial molehill into a mountain; you make a broken fingernail into an amputated arm; or parental mistakes into life long rants. I am of the sad belief far too many therapists do just that when listening to their patients rants about parents.
Therapists who awfulize parental mistakes probably do so because most were wounded themselves as children and have not moved beyond those hurts that all parents inflict on children. Instead of moving on, these keep parental behavior in the floodlight of therapy practice.
Oscar Wilde noted, “Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.”
Theodore .Reik, Author of Listening With the Third Ear, believed until a person forgives their parents AND hopes their parents forgive them, no matter what the person’s age, they remain a child.
So blaming, bashing therapists and parenting gurus, please grow up.
I personally believe forgiving and hoping you will be forgiven is usually accomplished when our dreams of being the kind of parents we wanted to be crash and shatter. When is that? When the reality based parts of our brain realize we are making many of the same mistakes our parents made.
PARENTING ADVICE ABOUT PARENT BASHING
Check reality: Some parents need bashing, probably to be arrested, and then convicted of their crimes. Read the book A Boy Called It for an example.
If you have sex with your children, beat them so they break and bruise, you are engaging in criminal behavior. Criminal behavior needs stopping.
If you are continuously emotionally bruising and battering a child, while that is easily proved to be criminal behavior, it should be bashed and stopped. The child protective laws calls such behavior emotional abuse.
Now here is a problem related to emotional bruising. We all do it. In one way or another we all hurt our children and hurt them badly.
Here is another quote, this one by John Steinbeck from his book East of Eden, “When a child first catches adults out — when it first walks into his grave little head that adults do not always have divine intelligence, that their judgments are not always wise, their thinking true, their sentences just — his world falls into panic desolation. The gods are fallen and all safety gone. And there is one sure thing about the fall of gods: they do not fall a little; they crash and shatter or sink deeply into green muck. It is a tedious job to build them up again; they never quite shine. And the child’s world is never quite whole again. It is an aching kind of growing.”
Sadly, most children, even those with the best of parents, eventually deal with the fallen gods that were once their parents – life as it is, not as we wish it to be.
Check your flaws: Admit you fail to always be a good or good-enough parent. Think of these common examples:
- Children victimized by adult temper tantrums. I hurt my children with my temper.
- Children witnessing your inappropriately expressed anger toward others. Emotionally bruising.
- Children made pawns in divorce actions or custody cases.
- Children living parent’s failed dreams. Think of Toddlers and Tiaras.
- Children hurt or bruised in a hundred smaller ways.
Check the balance: We all fail to be good enough all the time. The difference between good enough and not good enough parenting in terms of the above list of flaws lies in two things
First: The balance between good parenting and not good enough parenting. My temper tantrums were flaws, and acts of emotional abuse.
Second: Can and do you apologize? The ability to say you were wrong and to apologize turns parental flaws into human flaws and teaches important life lessons.
My temper tantrums echoed my mother’s.And believe me when I realized I was behaving as she had, I sunk into a pit of shame. However, I was able to own up to how wrong those tantrums were and to apologize to my children; and to try to do better. I tried and sometimes failed. My mother never apologized. My father never told me her tantrums were not my fault. It took therapy to get me to understand that.
Have faith: When we realize we fail as parents, it is painful. It helped me to realize how few parental mistakes are fatal, how strong children are, and how most parents are good enough parents.
Forgive yourself for being human.
Hug, love, laugh and play lots with your children, young and old.
As always, share and care and thank you for doing so.
The first: Although built upon evidenced based practices, there is no guarantee my advice is the right advice for you and your family. Experiment, try my tips; if they are not useful to you try another parent adviser. You are the expert on you and your child; the rest of us experts on many different things.
The second: I have dysgraphia, a learning disability that peppers my writing with mis-spelling and punctuation errors. All my books are professionally edited. Not so my blog posts. Although I use all the grammar and spelling checks, mistakes slip by. If they bother you, seek another source of support for life’s less savory moments. Life is too short to let problems you can avoid annoy or stress you.