Sunday, March 27, 2011

The "Goodness" of a Child

I read this post today and it got me thinking about parenting and the "goodness" of a child. Here's a link to the post that activated my brain cells this morning.

Let's All Try Not to Be Jerks

To summarize, this mama recently had an experience at a store with her little one whereby her poor little guy was upset for some unknown reason and was very unhappy during her shopping excursion. Rather than receiving encouragement and/or sympathy, this mom felt hostility coming from other shoppers. I have to admit that I can't relate to this a ton in that in all of Boo's 3 1/2 years he's only lost it in public once. I do remember getting a few sympathetic looks that time and so I feel fortunate to have experienced that.

But what I have experienced is the opposite extreme. For the most part my child is polite and good-mannered when we're out and about. He does have his whiny moments and all, but nothing outright tantrumy usually. My point here is not what an angel my child can be, but that I often get compliments about how "quiet" he is, how "well-behaved", how "good." And I admit that as much as I'd like to puff up with mothery pride, there's always a part of me that wonders "Well, what if he was loud and kicking and screaming on the floor? What if bright lights and loud noises overstimulated him so much that he lost it each and every time I went into a store? Would this make him any less good?"

I get nervous at church where I have received several such comments on his "goodness". I wonder about how long this will last. Heaven forbid my child have a bad day in front of others. Will he then cease to be good? I have to wonder, what does this say about our culture and the value that is placed on children? A quiet child is a good child. So much for the child with so much spirit and zest for life that sitting still is an impossible feat. Or the child with such incredible depth of emotion and passion that life's daily challenges cause emotional overload and constant melt downs. Do things like this make a child bad?

I feel like this black and white thinking when applied to children is so very damaging. Children pick up on the perceptions of those around them. Will a child who was always seen as "good" grow into perfectionism later in life in order to continue to please those around him? Will a child seen as "bad" make choices that confirm that label later in life? Let's not view chidren as good or bad, but as colorful and wonderful individuals that are worth knowing and respecting. Wouldn't it be wonderful if as a society we could be supportive of the whole child, including the bad days and the meltdowns? What if we could likewise be supportive of frazzled mothers who are trying hard enough to simultaneously hold it together and support their child amidst trying moments? At least in my mind that would be an improvement to society. Thoughts?


  1. I agree with this so much. I was at a birthday party the other day. While the birthday girl and my daughter were chasing each other and being wild, one little boy was quietly playing with duplos. The birthday girl's grandmother kept remarking about how good he was, and it really bothered me.

  2. Fro my experience as a mom, most times when i recieve a "your children are so good" comment I think they are complimenting me as a parent, but maybe that's me being to heady :)But my experience as a child hearing"your so good" I have to say did put a bit of pressure on me to always measure up and not do anything "bad". You are very perceptive and that's not something a lot of folks think about and even I had only began to think about recently. Part of growing up and becoming "good" people is making mistakes or "bad" choices, without the we never grow or learn why we dont do certain things. There are those things we know inheritantly form a young age liek do not kill but there are others that seem more gray until we try it out. Those are the learning times and they don't make us bad for doing it. It's what we do with our learning that determines our life. Pk that was way off subject. Haha, good post and love your thinking.

  3. I'd love to take credit for this way of thinking, but these are thoughts I've absorbed from various parenting books that I've read.

    Another aspect of this you touched on regarding feeling as thought it's a compliment to parenting. I know I've felt not only this but an associated pressure to go along with it. Well, now people think I'm a good parent. I better make sure my child is always under control in public so I look like a good parent. This is an ugly part of me as a parent that I'm having to confront. I came to the realization awhile back that I'm a much harsher parent in public and at other people's homes than I am in the privacy of our own home. I'm less flexible and I'm demanding and even downright mean at times all in the name of appearing "in charge." It's ridiculous because that's not even the way that I believe parenting should be. I guess sometimes I feel added pressure because I go against the grain in so much of my parenting practices - cosleeping, extended breastfeeding, attachment parenting, positive discipline, etc...I feel like I have to prove every time we step out our door that these approaches "work." That's a ridiculous amount of pressure to put on myself. I need to learn how to let it go and know people are going to think what they're going to think.

  4. I think that is a normal growth in parenting. You get through it and sometimes will battle with it after having won over it for some tme. I think it reminds of who we are and who we ant to be-the point is to keep trucking.

  5. Thanks for the mention & link :)
    It's so frustrating in our society that quiet=good/noisy=bad when it comes to kids. Because, you know, individual personality couldn't possibly play a role in a child's behavior, right?
    I also think that not being open to new life and big families is a huge part of it. Can you imagine how different the attitude towards kids would be at a church where most families had 4-8 kids (which is probably what the average would be were it not for artificial contraception and the desire to limit family size)? I'm sure it'd be a lot different from my current church where most families only have a couple kids! I guess in a society of smaller families we just have to be even more vigilant about remembering to be sensitive and welcoming to little ones.

  6. love this post! i can definitely relate. I wrote a post recently called "there is no such thing as a bad baby" which also addresses the idea of calling babies "good" and "bad" based on their temperaments. it really is unfortunate.

  7. Maman - I have wondered what church used to be like in the day when many families walked in with eight children and children's programs were not the norm. I bet it would seem very chaotic compared to what most of us know of us church today!

    Chalise - I read your "there is no such thing as a bad baby" post. I completely agree! I feel like so much emphasis is put on infants being "good" when their behaviors make parenting more convenient. Boo was also a high needs baby. I remember wearing him all the time because putting him down for any length of time was just not an option. Now he's three and he's deeply sensitive and still needs a lot of thoughtful consideration on an ongoing basis. But he now has such a beautiful nurturing side to him. He recognizes need in others and wants to help. I like to think that maybe this is because his needs were met rather than ignored.