All about the mind

Deny…and it will cease to exist

A recent post by IHM had a comment about some parents being in denial about their child’s problems and this made me think about my own work. Being a child and adolescent psychologist involves a lot of work with parents (Unfortunately! I don’t hate parents, but it would be much easier if I could work with just the child and/or teen!) And I have seen all kinds:

  • The ones that are involved and want what’s best for their child,
  • The ones that are over-involved and pushy,
  • The ones that are blissfully ignorant and think that their child is an angel and it’s everyone else’s fault their kid gets into trouble,
  • And of course, the ones that accept there is a problem but won’t do anything to help fix it because that is the school’s job or the psychologist-with-a-magic-wand’s job.

I get really annoyed with the last three.

And sadly, more often than not, they are the ones I get to see.

I just don’t understand it. If a person chooses to have kids (and trust me, it’s a choice even if it was an “accident”), they need to take responsibility for bringing up these kids. And in that case, I fail to understand where the last two types of parents come from. The ones who think it’s everyone else’s responsibility but their own. The ones that are in complete denial.

If I had a dollar for every time a parent told me “But it’s not little Johnny’s fault…it’s other children…or it’s the teachers picking on him…”, I’d be rich. Or for the ones that go “I have [insert number] children to look after, I can’t spend extra time with this one just because he has learning difficulties” Yes, I’d be a millionaire. [When parents that give me this last statement, I often find myself thinking “That’s no excuse…you chose to have these many kids!]

I understand that every parent loves their child to bits and will not want to hear something negative about them. But sometimes, when your child is behaving like a brat and is bullying other kids or is spreading false rumours or is being physically aggressive towards others without being provoked, well, there is a problem! And when a teacher says there is a problem, they are able to see your kid in comparison to others his/her age. More often than not, when teachers suspect something (especially the more experienced ones), they tend to be right. But then, it’s up to the parents to do something about it. I’ve known of parents who blamed the school for a child’s oppositional behaviour. Okay, one school could have been wrong. But 3? Seriously. Same behaviour occurring at three different schools. One common factor: The child! If your child is struggling in all academic areas, it probably suggests that there is either a learning disorder or low intellectual ability. Being in denial about it doesn’t necessarily change his abilities. In fact, being in denial and putting more pressure on the kid is probably going to make things a whole lot worse.

The parents that accept there is a problem but then expect the school or me to fix it without contributing anything are also deluding themselves. After all, I would see a child for one hour a week as against the zillion hours the parents see the kid. And why is the problem solely the child? God forbid it’s something about the parenting that needs to change! I constantly tell parents I do not have a magic wand. Some laugh. Some smile. Some look at me uncertainly. But I’m being serious. I do not have a magic wand. And if they need to see some form of change, they need to put in the effort as well. And that might involve changing parenting tactics. Not giving in to the child’s every whim and fancy. Ignoring minor whinging or complaining.

You know how most parents-to-be attend birthing classes? Well, I think it should be made mandatory for parents to attend parenting classes as well when they are expecting a child. The Triple P could be one such course rolled out to new parents. And then classes on normal child development. And then, in case the child is later diagnosed (e.g. ADHD, ASD, Depression, Anxiety) they can seek the relevant help.

But I bet I will hear human rights people having a go at me for “taking away people’s freedom” or dictating too much or being a nanny-state.

Honestly though, what else can we do but educate? And what better way than when someone is expecting a child?

Until next time,


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  • ItsNu
    April 29, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    sad ! but you know in foreign countries they have these terms called parental guidance and parenting classes or therapies or counsellors…I doubt in India this is even given importance or not… I take my words back if there are these types of helps / organisations /classes available..but I’m sure they are not in plenty !

    I believe that this is an education parents should take right when the baby is in the embryo..because that is the time when the parent’s new term as human beings start…I wish everyone could understand this and give equal importance to taking onus of their kids rather than pushing it over to situations and people around !

  • Titaxy
    April 29, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    ok will come back and read this when (if at all) I’m expecting a child..and later again when the child needs help 😛

    seriously though, I hear what you are saying. I’m no psychologist and I don’t deal with parents like you do…but in the family / relatives / friends, I’ve seen parents being a bit ignorant about problems and it just doesn’t make sense. When asked why they deny that the child needs help all they can say is “it’s not my child’s fault. You won’t understand it until you are a parent” ..oh well…

  • Smitha
    April 29, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    I can’t help but agreeing with everything you have said. As a mother of a 4 yr old, I come across children and parents of all sorts – some you love to bits, because they are so balanced and sensible – other parents are the ones you have mentioned.

    I had seen a little boy punching somebody and his mother smiling away, a girl screaming and shouting at another, while the parents don’t lift their little finger to stop their children from misbehaving. I wonder if they realise that these little children grow up with behaviour issues just because they have not been taught what is right and wrong. Another funny thing I have seen is some parents with children who just cannot behave, are fanatic about what their children are studying or what classes they can get into – but oblivious to the behaviour issues that their child has…

  • starsinmeyes
    April 29, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    Agree 100%. Our son had issues, we initially weakly used all those excuses you’ve quoted, then we ‘grew up and threw ourselves heart and soul into changing ourselves for his sake, and it worked. Very difficult to change oneself tho.

    Another child with the same issues…his parents blamed everyone else and swore they would change the school…I brought them down back to earth when I told them the same problem would crop up in another school. But they didn’t take it very seriously, which is why the school is fast losing patience with their child. To their credit, the school thanked us over and over again for all our efforts and co-operation.

    Definitely parents need classes now…as an adoptive parent, I’ve seen that my ‘breed’ of parent is overanxious and so attends workshops, reads and reaches out for support and help much earlier than a parent with their birth child. And I wonder why every sort of parent wouldn’t do that…introspect and correct for the sake of the child.

  • amy888
    April 29, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    Thats a good idea – in theory. When it comes down to it, there would just be too many parenting styles out there to pick only one to teach. And which one is the right one ? For eg – to smack or not to smack? Thats a huge issue… and then you would have parents of different ethnicities who would have their own cultural ideas of the ” right ” way to parent…..
    Plus, you’d have those parents who just object to being told what to do by so-called experts. So in theory – awesome. In practice? Not so much.

  • Gyanban
    April 30, 2010 at 3:14 am

    You know PB – I have come to realize no matter how wrong a person is,or how ridiculous the argument might be, there is an element of truth in it.It is his or her belief system.We are no one to judge it.They do their bit..and we can chose to do our bit.If it works- great – if it does not – better. I mean there’s only that much you can do..beyond a point – it really becomes your choice to take that kind of shit and deal with it or dump it.

    I dont try to change people,I try to adapt, and create a co-existing environment..after all it is going to be the survival of the most adaptable in the long run.

  • arundhati
    April 30, 2010 at 3:45 am

    First time here, came here from starrys. And I’m impressed. Following you.

    Its great to hear the views of a qualified psychologist. I am just a parent groping around, trying to learn and to do whats best for my child.

    ps – Your about me section I totally identify with. You a Virgo by any chance?

  • Psych Babbler
    April 30, 2010 at 8:41 am

    You’re right in that it’s not given importance in India. Ideally, it would be wonderful if this was rolled out world over. But I guess some countries have more pressing issues than parenting. And yes, parenting education should start early… If only!

  • Deepthi
    June 22, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    I do agree that nowadays every couple needs parenting classes ,not only in India, but  through out the world..Its really good to know your views on parenting..Even I have personally come across children(actually my neighbour) who have such problems and just like one of the kinds you have listed, their parents just try to put it on his school and the supposed “bad company “(come on he’s just 7-8 years old ,how bad can his peers be???) instead of putting an effort to sort out the problem..But what interests me though is how Indian and even the parents from other countries have managed very well in the past times without such classes,that too with more number of children in their  families than in the recent times….

  • Psych Babbler
    June 23, 2011 at 8:45 am

    Definitely throughout the world! I think though in the past parents managed to parent their kids through fear which wasn’t always the right way either. Now however, the pendulum has swung the total opposite way which isn’t good either…there needs to be a middle ground!

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