Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Problem of “Pygmalion Parenting”

We parents sure do put our kids through a testing time don’t we? According to David Keirsey (Please Understand Me) we’re more likely than most to try and manipulate the genetic code as much as possible in producing clones of ourselves, producing children programmed and destined to achieve what we didn’t.[1]

It’s a real problem. People observe new and existing parents and the natural pride they have for their progeny. Parents awkwardly assume their kids will be just like them; think like them, feel like them, plan like them, and have goals like them.

Of course, our logical selves know this is crazy--to ‘load’ our children with this sort of baggage involves the guilt of expectation. Yet, many can’t help goad their kids toward a goal they never quite reached, as if their kids are a status symbol, an enduring family flame.

D.H. Lawrence said, “Let us beware and beware and beware... of having an ideal for our children. So doing, we damn them.”

Whether we ourselves are artisans, guardians, idealists or rationals does not translate at all that they might be. We, as parents, must know ourselves very well, and we must know our kids well, understanding and appreciating (indeed, welcoming) the differences as well as the similarities.

Our function as parents is to promote a “positive self-image in our children,” independent of any preconceived ideas of what they might be or do.[2] Our children’s happiness is to depend largely on them finding their own dreams and following them, with us as parents creating a basic framework of smiling encouragement and support.

This is an exciting thing for a parent. To observe their child play and interact with life, learning about what they want to be and do when they grow up. As a flower’s petals blossom so do our kids as they’re left to explore and discover themselves, with our quiet and affirming assurance.

Our kids must reach the level of independence, with our influence gradually petering out over the years, and we must also leave them eventually with the ability to self-affirm themselves in the absence of ‘Mum and Dad.’

Eventually, yes, we must leave them alone.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
[1] David Keirsey, Please Understand Me (California, USA: Prometheus Nemesis Book Company, 1998), pp. 252f-285.
[2] Keirsey, Ibid, p. 285.

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