When Chet was born, his parents decided to raise a perfect child. For starters, they made Chet follow a timed feeding program to avoid spoiling him. Everytime Chet cried uproariously in hunger but it wasn't time to eat, his parents ignored him. Then, in their desire to raise a superior child, they weaned Chet too soon. They also toilet-trained him too early and made him walk and talk before he was ready. His dad liked to boast, "Someday, Chet will be president." They believed what they were doing was for his own good.
As parents, we all make promises - but we don't always keep them. Dad swears his son will have everything he never had. Mom promises not to denigrate her boy like her own mother did when she was a child.
Chet's parents were no different. But every time Chet cried out for milk and was denied it, he was being deprived. Every time Chet was expected to walk or talk, or was toilet-trained too soon, his parents were telling him indirectly that he wasn't good enough. They wanted him to become their dreams.
Was their best for the best?
Like most parents, Chet's parents had the best intentions. They were giving their child their "best efforts." But their best wasn't what their child needed. In their pursuit of perfection in their children, they forgot that no one is perfect, not even them.
Dr. Randy Dellosa, a psychiatrist and clinical psychologist and professor at the University of the Philippines, Diliman, says, "Parents who have not healed from their own childhood wounds may unconsciously inflict the same wounds on their children or on each other.”
Dr. Randy subscribes to the theories of Dr. Arthur Janov, a psychologist and author of The Primal Scream (G.P. Putnam, 1970). According to Janov, children who have become neurotic at an early age, also known as primal babies, come from primal parents. Primal parents are those whose own primal neediness defined the type of parents they became. And so they pushed their children to coo, wave, get A's, do chores, be quiet or undemanding, and be athletic or pretty.
Dr. Randy says that such parenting can lead children to become adults with harmful life patterns. One case he cites is that of one female patient who habitually chose abusive partners. She would end up with men who abused her physically, emotionally, mentally, or sexually. But through regressive-cathartic therapy, her long-repressed memories of childhood abuse from her father surfaced. She ventilated the intense emotions the shed held back for so many years, and by accepting and grieving her childhood wounds, was freed from her subconscious attraction towards abusive men.
The treatment that Dellosa gave her was similar to Janov's Primal Therapy. Only Janov's institute is authorized to teach it, and practitioners lose their right to practice or teach it once they leave his institute. Improperly administered, primal therapy can be psychologically harmful. It can deepen emotional wounds, and the client can end up more traumatized. Furthermore, an unethical practitioner can plant false childhood memories into his client's mind.
Dellosa's own form of regressive-cathartic psychotherapy is a product of his clinical experience and the techniques he learned from his psychiatric training and psychological studies at the Southern California University and the Gestalt Psychotherapy Network of Europe.
Hidden hurts, visible symptoms
Just because the hurts are hidden doesn't mean that things are ok. "If parents heal their own childhood hurts, they can become more loving and positive", Dr. Randy says. "In fact, that's the best thing they can do for their kids - make sure that they, as parents have resolved their own life issues. Otherwise children may pick up or model after the dysfunctional and self-defeating life patterns of their parents."
Letting your child be
What can parents do? Perhaps the answer lies not so much in having plans for your child, but in standing back, getting to know your child, guiding him, protecting him, and helping him map out his life and personality. Be proud of your child. Encourage the least of his accomplishments, and never let him doubt that he's loved - simply for being himself.
I saw a little boy sing in a grade school program, horribly out of tune. Nonetheless, the boy's mother and father approached him after and said, "Son, we're very proud of your production number. You did very well."
Some things are simply more important than our own standards and goals.
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