There is an old assumption that whatever you tell a therapist, he or she will always “blame the parents”. Most self-help and psychology works on conditioning and change point primarily to the time when our caregivers had the most influence over us. This is not often seen as positive and is usually cited as the cause of all our ills. While it might not be the sole reason for adult dysfunction, it is certainly an extremely important time in all our lives. A time when we are truly looking for a blueprint for our lives and our parents are usually where we look.
Parents do not need to be perfect but they do need to provide an environment that forms a bedrock for a child to grow into a functional adult. Many children growing up in “good enough” situations can move through vital developmental stages to adulthood with relative ease. By “good enough”, I mean they have been shown how to set and respect boundaries, subjected to positive discipline and “coached” through childhood. All this with a sense of stewardship and a sense of responsibility that comes from setting manageable goals and the reasonable expectation of success, but not fearing failure.
However, this is the exception rather than the rule and the effects on children when parents “get it wrong” can be far-reaching and devastating to the adult they become. We are not even talking here about the obvious consequences of sexual, emotional and physical abuse. It is clear that such abuse will certainly not produce a well-rounded, balanced individual. While it is always possible to turn things around, it is much harder when abuse has been a constant feature. We are talking here about the less obvious, more subtle issues that children pick up on very quickly and ultimately blame themselves for.
Many of my clients describe a basic family set up of an emotionally distant father and an overwhelmed mother. Some state that they felt no connection with either parent, were never hugged or validated. Some felt an inconvenience to the very people who gave them life. Much of my work in therapy is to do with healing this core wound.
In this respect, the parents can always be held responsible. When two people bring a child into the world, they have the duty to provide an environment that helps that a child grow. I do not accept that people are ill-prepared for parenthood or their own conditioning stands in the way. As humans, we have the endless ability to learn and improve. Parents are made not born. The effects of this leave children predisposed to this dysfunction and unless they themselves learn, will adopt a parenting style of their own based on what they have learnt. I wonder just how many people really know just what they are getting into when they produce offspring.