The art of good parenting begins with the fundamental skill of seeing through the eyes of the child, of sharing the child's view or reality, feelings and hopes. It is this awareness of the world that permits a parent, grandparent or teacher to hold the child when threatened, to love the child when lonely, to teach the child when inquisitive, and to discipline the child who knows he is wrong.
The success of the entire parent-child relationship depends on this perceptive skill. How often do teenagers complain, "My parents don't understand me"? They are pronouncing judgment on their parents' inability to "mind read" their life. This ability is acquired by developing an understanding of the meaning of behavior.
Behavior, in turn, is closely related to those mysterious factors of individuality and temperament. Every parent of more than one child has wondered how two children raised in the same home with the same genetic makeup can be so different from one another. How can one child be so reverently quiet and withdrawn, while another is so noisy and self-assertive?
Extending that question to adulthood, we might wonder why one person is kind and gentle, while another is mean and hateful. Certainly, part of the story of human temperament is told by genetics, but I believe the real heavyweight in shaping the personality is that same old companion--inferiority.
You see, damage to the ego (loss of self-worth) actually equals or exceeds the pain of physical discomfort in intensity. In fact, I have seen people experience extreme physical pain, and I have witnessed others whose self-esteem had completely crumbled. I believe the latter is worse! It gnaws on the soul through the conscious mind by day and in the dreams by night. So painful is its effect that our entire emotional apparatus is designed to protect us from its oppression.
A sizable portion of all human activity is devoted to the task of shielding us from the inner pain of inferiority. I believe this to be the most dominant force in life, even exceeding the power of sex in its influence. Therefore, if we are to understand the meaning of behavior in our boys and girls, husband or wife, friends and neighbors--and even our enemies--then we must begin by investigating the ways in which human beings typically cope with self-doubts and personal inadequacies.
Six personality patterns, I believe, offer the most direct and accurate explanation of human behavior that I have seen. Most children adopt one or more of these avenues of defense. Each parent is encouraged to look through this article for the footprints of his own child, and while doing so, he might even find the sand-filled remnants of his own tracks. The six patterns are:
1 "I'll withdraw";
2. "I'll fight";
3. "I'll be a clown";
4. "I'll deny reality";
5. "I'll conform"; and
6. "I'll compensate." (By James Dobson, Ph.D.)
This material is excerpted from Dr. Dobson's book The New Hide or Seek (copyright © 1974, 1979, 1999 by James Dobson), published by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, and is used by permission.
For further enquiries, kindly contact:
Focus on the Family (M) Sdn. Bhd.
6-2 Jalan Bersatu 13/4
46200 Petaling Jaya
Tel: 03-7954 7920
Fax: 03-7954 7858
e-mail: [email protected]
Focus on the Family 90-second commentaries is aired over TRAXX FM at 6.30 a.m. Monday to Friday.