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Friday, November 13, 2015

Parenting: How Criticisms and Nagging Backfire




Children give their parents what the parents seem to need

Mell Lazarus, the cartoonist who created Miss Peach, writes a very creative comic called Momma. I wish it were in a lot more newspapers. He understands something paramount about family dynamics that it seems a lot of so-called parenting experts do not address or even seem to notice. 

Psychiatrists and pediatricians who prescribe medications for children who supposedly have "ADHD" or "Pediatric Bipolar Disorder" never even ask their teenage patients about it - or inquire in any detail about much of anything that goes on at home between them and their parents.







I've included in this post several of his strips that demonstrate how tuned into this process Mr. Lazarus is. The dynamics can be described quite simply in three sentences:

1. If a parent repeatedly criticizes a child or a teenager about the very same behaviors, the child will not only not stop them, but will continue or even dramatically increase them.

2. If a parent continually nags a child or teenager to do the same things, the child will not only refrain from doing what the parent is ostensibly asking for, but will studiously avoid doing so - or even do the exact opposite.

3. If a parent continually tells children or teenagers they have some trait, or lack some trait, the children will compulsively act out the trait they have been told they have, and/or will compulsively avoid doing anything that suggests they actually have any trait they have been told they lack.

So why is this? Well, if parents obsessively do something, children will conclude that they parents either need to do it and/or enjoy doing it, even if the parents repeatedly deny it. Actions speak louder than words. Far be it for any child to deprive a parent of a cherished role.









So, if the parents seem to like or need to nag or criticize, their children will continue to misbehave. If the parents compulsively state or predict that the child has or will develop a negative trait, their children will continue to prove them right. They do these things so that the parents will feel good about themselves, not because they enjoy have negative traits.

7 comments:

  1. It gets better: when the child attempts to not participate in the Nag Feedback Loop, the tension is unbearable. It's like holding your breath at the bottom of a deep pool, sooner or later you will relent and go back to the old ways.

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  2. That describes "therapy" by the "well-meaning" do-gooders.

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    Replies
    1. And what's your suggestion?

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    2. For whom - the parents or the kids? There isn't a one-size fits all answer. It would depend on WHY the parent seems to be so obsessed with running the lives of the kids, or with "fixing" them, or with atoning for some perceived sin the parents are feeling guilty of, or any number of other things.

      For kids and teens, the really don't have much power to do anything about this unless there is a sympathetic relative who can help them out.

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  3. It's an interesting life to have been crippled by the fears of my family while pulling at the jacket hems of the help and getting kicked in the face for "weakness" in return. It was a true scapegoating.

    I'm rarely disgusted anymore by what passes for "razor sharp instincts" among therapists. It's been a heck of a lot easier to move on from the ignorance of my family rather than the deliberate, reckless behaviours of therapists and their tv talk show attitudes.

    Can't / won't develop the skills needed in therapy to listen and stay safe? Save a life, go pick fruit for a living then.

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  4. It gets better: when the child attempts to not participate in the Nag Feedback Loop, the tension is unbearable. It's like holding your breath at the bottom of a deep pool, sooner or later you will relent and go back to the old ways.
    Health and beauty

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  5. The funny thing I've realized as I've gotten older is that my parents' constant refrain to us kids as we grew up, "You are selfish bastards!" was really a dead-on description of themselves. We kids were only narcissistic extensions of our parents, and our parents have shown themselves to be emotionally incapable of compassion or empathy towards themselves [sic] or us. It's too late for an intervention to help our parents see the error of their ways--whatever poorly written programming they're using, they're locked into it and will ride it to the end--but it's still amazing to see how the stuff you write about is true.

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