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What does it mean to help my child become a good child? (JORDAN B. PETERSON) | Part A’

What does it mean to help my child become a good child? (JORDAN B. PETERSON) | Part A’

Recently, I watched a three-year-old boy trail his mother and father slowly through a
crowded airport. He was screaming violently at five-second intervals—and, more
important, he was doing it voluntarily. He wasn’t at the end of this tether. As a parent, I
could tell from the tone. He was irritating his parents and hundreds of other people to
gain attention. Maybe he needed something. But that was no way to get it, and his
parents should have let him know that. You might object that “perhaps they were worn
out, and jet-lagged, after a long trip.” But thirty seconds of carefully directed problemsolving would have brought the shameful episode to a halt. More thoughtful parents
would not have let someone they truly cared for become the object of a crowd’s contempt.

I saw a four-year old boy
allowed to go hungry on a regular basis. His nanny had been injured, and he was being
cycled through the neighbours for temporary care. When his mother dropped him off at
our house, she indicated that he wouldn’t eat at all, all day. “That’s OK,” she said. It
wasn’t OK (in case that’s not obvious). This was the same four-year-old boy who clung to
my wife for hours in absolute desperation and total commitment, when she tenaciously,
persistently and mercifully managed to feed him an entire lunch-time meal, rewarding
him throughout for his cooperation, and refusing to let him fail. He started out with a
closed mouth, sitting with all of us at the dining room table, my wife and I, our two kids,
and two neighbourhood kids we looked after during the day. She put the spoon in front of
him, waiting patiently, persistently, while he moved his head back and forth, refusing it
entry, using defensive methods typical of a recalcitrant and none-too-well-attended twoyear old

She didn’t let him fail. She patted him on the head every time he managed a mouthful,
telling him sincerely that he was a “good boy” when he did so. She did think he was a
good boy. He was a cute, damaged kid. Ten not-too-painful minutes later he finished his
meal. We were all watching intently. It was a drama of life and death.
“Look,” she said, holding up his bowl. “You finished all of it.” This boy, who was
standing in the corner, voluntarily and unhappily, when I first saw him; who wouldn’t
interact with the other kids, who frowned chronically, who wouldn’t respond to me when
I tickled and prodded him, trying to get him to play—this boy broke immediately into a
wide, radiant smile. It brought joy to everyone at the table. Twenty years later, writing it
down today, it still brings me to tears. Afterward, he followed my wife around like a
puppy for the rest of the day, refusing to let her out of his sight. When she sat down, he
jumped in her lap, cuddling in, opening himself back up to the world, searching
desperately for the love he had been continually denied. Later in the day, but far too soon,
his mother reappeared. She came down the stairs into the room we all occupied. “Oh,
SuperMom,” she uttered, resentfully, seeing her son curled up in my wife’s lap. Then she
departed, black, murderous heart unchanged, doomed child in hand. She was a
psychologist. The things you can see, with even a single open eye. It’s no wonder that
people want to stay blind

Some localize all such problems in the adult, whether in the parent or broader society.
“There are no bad children,” such people think, “only bad parents.” When the idealized
image of an unsullied child is brought to mind, this notion appears fully justified. The
beauty, openness, joy, trust and capacity for love characterizing children makes it easy to
attribute full culpability to the adults on the scene. But such an attitude is dangerously
and naively romantic. It’s too one-sided, in the case of parents granted a particularly
difficult son or daughter. It’s also not for the best that all human corruption is uncritically
laid at society’s feet. That conclusion merely displaces the problem, back in time. It
explains nothing, and solves no problems. If society is corrupt, but not the individuals
within it, then where did the corruption originate?

 

 

Part b’ follows

 

12 RULES FOR LIFE


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