Parental Influences

If we’re happy to take some of the credit for our children’s successes, we should also accept a share of the responsibility when they don’t do so well.

In the late 70’s, I met an elderly gentleman in a social context.  I’ll call him James.  He was in his early 80’s.

We got to talking, and found that we had a good deal in common – primarily a love for the land, the forests, gardening, and just generally being active.

One day he told me that his son had had a nervous breakdown.  He never specified what this meant, but it sounded serious.

James explained to me that his son had been very bright, and for that reason, he had pushed him hard to succeed.  But, James went on, his son was also sensitive.  James hadn’t realized this, and he acknowledged that he pushed his son “too hard,” and attributed the breakdown to this excessive pressure.

James and I chatted about these matters generally, and it was clear that he had discussed these issues extensively with his son, that they had reached an accommodation, and that at the time of our conversation, they had a good relationship.

What struck me particularly at the time was the honesty with which James was able to discuss these matters.  In my experience, this is fairly rare.

The point here is not to vilify parents.  Most of us do, or have done, our best.  But it seems unlikely that we got everything perfectly right.

When we challenge the illness assumption, psychiatry routinely accuses us of blaming the parents.  But if, in my parenting, I did things that impacted my children negatively, isn’t it better to face this and talk to my adult children about it, rather than stick to the fairy tale version of parental perfection.

Isn’t it actually a much more serious indictment of me as a person that I would be willing to accept – without the slightest evidence – the ego-salving assertion that my child has a broken brain, rather than accept that, although my parental intentions were good, my performance wasn’t always stellar?

Isn’t the truth the point from which we start to grow?

I was reminded of these matters recently on reading Neglectful Parenting Excused by Drug-Expert PsychiatristIt’s written by Cathi Carol and published on her website, The Science of Reality.

Here’s a quote:

“In reality, the parents who are the least aware of how their own behaviors toward their children – their neglect, anger, abuse, blame, condescension, control, resentment, attack, or undue punishment – affect them are the ones who are the most likely to blame their children for their subsequent behavioral problems, to take them to psychiatrists, and to listen to those psychiatrists when they recommend drugging their children into oblivion to control their reactions to their parents rather than taking responsibility for their own bad parenting, learning how to be better parents, and changing.

To have that ignorant, arrogant, dumb, self-defensive, or lazy it’s-not-our-fault parental attitude applauded and reinforced by psychiatrists is worse than no help to the family or to the child, it’s additional abuse heaped upon the child by even more authority figures negligent to their charter to heal, not to harm.”

Sometimes these mistakes, as Cathi says, arise from neglect, anger, abuse, etc.; other times they result from ignorance, bewilderment, distractions, or a failure to recognize the child’s uniqueness and individuality.  But all of these mistakes affect how our children develop, and how they cope with the difficulties and vicissitudes of adult life.  Parenting is not the only determinant of a child’s later functioning, but it is the major determinant.

To pretend otherwise – to accept instead psychiatry’s broken brain nonsense and to feed our children ever-increasing quantities of toxic chemicals – is a tragedy beyond words.

Cathi’s article is direct and straight-forward, and well worth a read.

  • Sweet63

    I’ve noticed this belated honesty with the elderly. They acknowledge their mistakes decades after it matters…in the heat of battle, not so much. Maybe this is as it should be.

  • Robyn Belcher

    I can’t even express how much I agree with you on this. I am constantly talking to people about this concept. It is so hard for parents to acknowledge the harm they are causing – much easier to call it ADHD and now the even more horrid Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder.

  • Phil_Hickey


    Yes; it’s a lot easier to become alienated than to become reconciled.

  • Phil_Hickey


    In my view, Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder was invented specifically to legitimize giving neuroleptics to children. Psychiatry has lost all sense of decency..

  • Robyn Belcher

    I agree. It is horrifying…

  • Cledwyn rat-rouser bulbs

    The truth is that parents are always in some way to blame, because all of the problems of the unfortunate outcome of their moment of madness can ultimately be traced back to the fact that they decided to have a child and authored its life, from which it follows that the claim that parents are responsible for many of the problems psychiatric patients encounter is always largely true.

    On top of this, even the most intelligent parents are still largely incompetent and will inevitably end up damaging their children, no matter how much they love them; indeed it is impossible for two people to get close to each other without it resulting in harm, for as Schopenhauer illustrates in his fable of the porcupines, if you get too close to people, you’ll get pricked.

    All relationships between human beings entail the mutual infliction of psychological, and sometimes physical, violence, as the battle-worn visage of a husband and wife and the carnage of conjugal relationships amply attests.

    If parents don’t want to accept responsibility, then they shouldn’t have bloody had children. Every subsequent trauma in a child’s life can be traced back to that original trauma when, often by forceps, freshly-minted flesh reluctantly comes bawling forth into this scandalous world, from which moment forward, sometimes admittedly out of ignorance, the parents set about filling his head with all sorts of nonsense about life, all sorts of emotional extortion in order to make us grateful for the anal-pounding we are or are about to take from life (a turd wrapped in tinsel).

    “We are brought forth, but we are not brought up. Having brought us forth, our procreators proceed to treat us with all the mindless ineptitude it requires to destroy the new human being they have made.”

    Thomas Bernhard