Parents

If as children they were brought up too strictly, then they spoil their own children with a tolerance bordering on bad taste; … TEJ 194

There is no personality without definiteness, wholeness, and ripeness.  These three qualities cannot and should not be expected of the child, as they would rob it of childhood.  It would be nothing but an abortion, …

…a premature pseudo-adult; yet our modern education has already given birth to such monsters, particularly in those cases where parents set themselves the fanatical task of always “doing their best” for the children and “living only for them.”  TEJ 195

… This clamant ideal effectively prevents the parents from doing anything about their own development and allows them to thrust their “best” down their children’s throats.  This so-called “best” turns out to be the very things the parents have most badly neglected in themselves.  In this way the children are goaded on to achieve their parents’ most dismal failures, and are loaded with ambitions that are never fulfilled.  Such methods and ideals only engender educational monstrosities.  TEJ 195

The fact is that the high ideal of educating the personality is not for children: for what is usually meant by personality – a well-rounded psychic whole that is capable of resistance and abounding in energy – is an adult ideal.   TEJ 193

For in every adult there lurks a child – an eternal child, something that is always becoming, is never completed, and calls for unceasing care, attention, and education.  That is the part of the human personality which wants to develop and become whole.  TEJ 194

… we cannot correct in a child a fault that we ourselves still commit.  Children are not half as stupid as we imagine.  They notice only too well what is genuine and what is not.  TEJ194

The smaller the personality, the dimmer and more unconscious it becomes, until finally it merges indistinguishably with the surrounding society, thus surrendering its own wholeness and dissolving into the wholeness of the group.  In the place of the inner voice there is the voice of the group with its conventions, and vocation is replaced by collective necessities. 

No one can train the personality unless he has it himself.  And it is not the child, but only the adult, who can achieve personality as the fruit of a full life directed to this end.   195

The parents are not just “sexual” objects or “pleasure objects” to be dismissed out of hand; they are, or they represent, vital forces which accompany the child on the winding path of destiny in the form of favourable or dangerous factors, from whose influence even the adult can escape only in limited degree, analysis or no analysis.  Father and mother are, whether we know it or not, replaced by something analogous to them – if, that is to say, we succeed in detaching ourselves from them at all.  The detachment is possible only if we can step on to the next level.  For example, the place of the father is now taken by the doctor, a phenomenon which Freud called the “transference.”  But in the place of the mother there is substituted the wisdom of a doctrine.  And indeed the great prototype in the Middle Ages was the substitution of Mother Church for the family.  In recent times worldly allegiances have taken the place of the spiritual organization of society, for to remain a permanent member of the family has very undesirable psychic consequences and is for that reason rendered impossible even in primitive society by the initiation ceremonies.  Man needs a wider community than the family, in whose leading-strings he will be stunted both spiritually and morally.  If he is burdened with too much family, if, in later life his tie to the parents is too strong he will simply transfer the parental tie to the family he himself has raised (if he ever gets that far), thus creating for his own progeny the same suffocating psychic atmosphere from which he suffered in his youth.  TDoP 85

For the ethically minded person who may be a father or mother (the most powerful effect upon children do not come from the conscious state of the parents but from their unconscious background) presents an almost frightening problem, because the things we can manipulate more or less, namely consciousness and its contents, are seen to be ineffectual in comparison with these uncontrollable effects in the background, no matter how hard we may try.  TDoP 42

There can be no doubt that it is of the utmost value for parents to view their children’s symptoms in the light of their own problems and conflicts.  It is their duty as parents to do so.    TDoP 42

Generally far too little stress is laid upon how important the conduct of the parents is for the child, because it is not words that count, but deeds.  Parents should always be conscious of the fact that they themselves are the principle cause of neurosis in their children.  TDoP 42

Here as well as elsewhere in practical psychology we are constantly coming up against the experience that in a family of several children only one of them will react to the unconscious of the parents with a marked degree of identity, while the others show no such reaction.  TDoP 42

What usually has the strongest psychic effect on the child is the life which the parents (and ancestors too, for we are dealing here with the ago-old psychological phenomenon of original sin) have not lived.   This statement would be rather too perfunctory and superficial if we did not add by way of qualification: that part of their lives which might have been lived had not certain somewhat threadbare excuses prevented the parents from doing so.  To put it bluntly, it is that part of life which they have always shirked, probably by means of a pious lie.  That sows the most virulent germs.   TDoP 43

One should never forget that it is a question of “original sin,” a sin against life and not a contravention of man-made morality, and that the parents must therefore be viewed as children of the grandparents.  The curse of the House of Atreus is no empty phrase.  TDoP 43

Parental influence only becomes a moral problem in face of conditions which might have been changed by the parents, but were not, either from gross negligence, slothfulness, neurotic anxiety, or soulless conventionality.  In this matter a grave responsibility often rests with the parents.  And nature has no use for the plea that one “did not know.”  Not knowing acts like guilt.   TDoP 44

The causal significance of parental problems for the psyche of the child would be seriously misunderstood if they were always interpreted in an exaggeratedly personal way as moral problems.  More often we seem to be dealing with some fate-like ethos beyond the reach of our conscious judgment.  Such things as proletarian inclinations in the scions of noble families, outbursts of criminality in the offspring of the respectable or over-virtuous, a paralyzing or impassioned laziness in the children of successful business men, are not just bits of life that have been left deliberately unlived, but compensations wrought by fate, functions of a natural ethos which casts down the high and mighty and exalts the humble.  Against this neither education nor psychotherapy is of any avail.  The most they can do, if reasonably applied, is to encourage the child to fulfill the task imposed upon him by the natural ethos.  The guilt of the parents is impersonal, and the child should pay for it no less impersonally.  TDoP 44

There are, unfortunately, many parents who keep their children infantile because they themselves do not wish to grow old and give up their parental authority and power.  In this way they exercise an extremely bad influence over their children, since they deprive them of every opportunity for individual responsibility.  These disastrous methods of upbringing result either in dependent personalities, or in men and women who can achieve their independence only by furtive means.  There are other parents, again, who on account of their own weaknesses are not in a position to meet the child with the authority it needs if it is to take its proper place in the world.  TDoP 56

It is not a question of the parents having to be “perfect” in order to have no deleterious effects on their children.  If they really were perfect, it would be a positive catastrophe, for the children would then have no alternative but moral inferiority, unless of course they chose to fight the parents with their own weapons, that is, copy them.  But this trick only postpones the final reckoning till the third generation. 

The repressed problems, and the suffering thus fraudulently avoided, secrete an insidious poison which seeps into the soul of the child through the thickest walls of silence and through the whited sepulchers of deceit, complacency, and evasion.  The child is helplessly exposed to the psychic influence of the parents and is bound to copy their self-deception, their insincerity, hypocrisy, cowardice, self-righteousness, and selfish regard for their own comfort, just as wax takes up the imprint of the seal.  The only thing that can save the child from unnatural injury is the efforts of the parents not to shirk the psychic difficulties of life by deceitful manoeuvres or by remaining artificially unconscious, but rather to accept them as tasks, to be as honest with themselves as possible, and to shed a beam of light into the darkest corners of their souls.  If they can confess to an understanding ear, so much the better.

It is not a question of the parents having to be “perfect” in order to have no deleterious effects on their children.  If they really were perfect, it would be a positive catastrophe, for the children would then have no alternative but moral inferiority, unless of course they chose to fight the parents with their own weapons, that is, copy them.  But this trick only postpones the final reckoning till the third generation. 

The repressed problems, and the suffering thus fraudulently avoided, secrete an insidious poison which seeps into the soul of the child through the thickest walls of silence and through the whited sepulchers of deceit, complacency, and evasion.  The child is helplessly exposed to the psychic influence of the parents and is bound to copy their self-deception, their insincerity, hypocrisy, cowardice, self-righteousness, and selfish regard for their own comfort, just as wax takes up the imprint of the seal.  The only thing that can save the child from unnatural injury is the efforts of the parents not to shirk the psychic difficulties of life by deceitful manoeuvres or by remaining artificially unconscious, but rather to accept them as tasks, to be as honest with themselves as possible, and to shed a beam of light into the darkest corners of their souls.  If they can confess to an understanding ear, so much the better.

   About education in general and school education in particular the doctor has little to say from the standpoint of his science, as that is hardly his business.  But on the education of difficult or otherwise exceptional children he has an important word to add.  He knows only too well from his practical experience what a vital role parental influences and the effects of schooling play even in the life of the adult.  He is therefore inclined, when dealing with children’s neuroses, to seek the root cause less in the child itself than in its adult surroundings, and more particularly in the parents.  Parents have the strongest effect upon the child not only through its inherited constitution, but also through the tremendous psychic influence they themselves exert.  That being so, the uneducatedness and unconsciousness of the adult works far more powerfully than any amount of good advice, commands, punishments, and good intentions.  But when, as is unfortunately all too often the case, parents and teachers expect the child to make a better job of what they themselves do badly, the effect is positively devastating.  Again and again we see parents thrusting their unfulfilled illusions and ambitions on to the child, and forcing it into a role for which it is in no circumstances fitted.  TDoP 132

If even the alledgedly mature man is afraid of the unknown, why shouldn’t the child hesitate also?  The horror novi is one of the most striking qualities of primitive man.  This is a natural enough obstacle, as obstacles go; but excessive attachment to the parents is unnatural and pathological, because a too great fear of the unknown is itself pathological.  Hence one should avoid the one-sided conclusion that hesitation in advancing is necessarily due to sexual dependence on the parents.  Often it may be simply a reculer pour mieux sauterEven in cases where children do exhibit sexual symptoms – where, in other words, the incestuous tendency is perfectly obvious – I should recommend a careful examination of the parent’s psyche.  One finds astonishing things, such as a father unconsciously in love with his own daughter, a mother who is unconsciously flirting with her son, imputing under the cover of unconsciousness their own adult emotions to their children, who, again unconsciously, act the parts allotted to them.  Children will not of course play these strange and unnatural roles unless unconsciously forced into them by their parents’ attitude.   TDoP 76

The child who enters school at six is still for the most part the psychic product of his parents, endowed, it is true, with the nucleus of ego-consciousness, but incapable of asserting his unconscious individuality.  One is often tempted to interpret children who are peculiar, obstinate, disobedient, or difficult to handle as especially individual or self-willed.  This is a mistake.  In such cases we should always examine the parental milieu, its psychological conditions and history.  Almost without exception we discover in the parents the only valid reasons for the child’s difficulties.  His disquieting peculiarities are far less the expression of his own inner life than a reflection of disturbing influences in the home.  If the physician has to deal with nervous disorders in a child of this age, he will have to pay serious attention to the psychic state of the parents; to their problems, the way they live and do not live, the aspirations they have fulfilled or neglected, and to the predominant family atmosphere and the method of education.  All these psychic conditions influence a child profoundly.  TDoP 54

In his early years the child lives in a state of participation mystique with his parents.  Time and again it can be seen how he reacts immediately to any important developments in the parental psyche.  Needless to say both the parents and the child are unconscious of what is going on.  The infectious nature of the parent’s complexes can be seen from the effect their mannerisms have on their children.  Even when they make completely successful efforts to control themselves, so that no adult could detect the least trace of a complex, the children will get wind of it somehow.  TDoP 55

Children are not half as stupid as we imagine.  They notice only too well what is genuine and what is not.  Hans Andersen’s story of the emperor’s clothes contains a perennial truth.  How many parents have come to me with the laudable intention of sparing their children the unhappy experiences they had to go through in their own childhood!  And when I ask, “Are you quite sure you have overcome these mistakes yourself?” they are firmly convinced that the damage has long since been repaired.  In actual fact it has not.  If as children they were brought up too strictly, then they spoil their own children with a tolerance bordering on bad taste; if certain matters were painfully concealed from them in childhood, these are revealed with a lack of reticence that is just as painful.  They have merely gone to the opposite extreme, the strongest evidence for the tragic survival of the old sin – a fact which has altogether escaped them.  TDoP 170

If there is anything that we wish to change in our children, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves.  Take our enthusiasm for pedagogics.  It may be that the boot is on the other leg.  It may be that we misplace the pedagogical need because it would be an uncomfortable reminder that we ourselves are still children in many respects and still need a vast amount of educating. 

  At any rate this doubt seems to me to be extremely pertinent when we set out to train our children’s “personalities.”  Personality is a seed that can only develop by slow stages throughout life.  There is no personality without definiteness, wholes, and ripeness.  These three qualities cannot and should not be expected of the child, as they would rob it of childhood.  It would be nothing but an abortion, a premature pseudo-adult; yet our modern education has already given birth to such monsters, particularly in those cases where parents set themselves the fanatical task of always “doing their best” for the children and “living only for them.”  This clamant ideal effectively prevents the parents from doing anything about their own development and allows them to thrust their “best” down their children’s throats.  This so-called “best” turns out to be the very things the parents have most badly neglected in themselves.  In this way the children are goaded on to achieve their parents’ most dismal failures, and are loaded with ambitions that are never fulfilled.  Such methods and ideals only engender educational monstrosities.    TDoP 171

(Parents – a typical case)

(Regarding a case of a young girl [The Development of Personality p. 126)   The role played by the parents is again the most conspicuous.  It was one of those typical marriages where the father is completely wrapped up in his business, and the mother tries to realize her social ambitions through the child.  The child had to be a success in order to satisfy her mother’s desires and expectations and to flatter her vanity.  A mother like this does not as a rule see the real character of her child at all, or her individual ways and needs.  She projects herself into the child and rules her with a ruthless will to power.  Such a marriage is all too likely to produce just that psychological situation and to intensify it still further.  There seems to have been a considerable distance between husband and wife, as so masculine a woman can hardly have had any real understanding of a man’s feelings: the only thing she knows how to get out of him is his money.  He pays her in order to keep her in a fairly tolerable mood.  All her love turns into ambition and will to power (if indeed she has not been doing this since long before her marriage, unconsciously following the example of her own mother).  The children of such mothers are practically nothing more than dolls, to be dressed up and adorned at pleasure.  They are nothing but mute figures on the chessboard of their parents’ egoism, and the maddening thing is that all this is done under the cloak of selfless devotion to the dear child, whose happiness is the sole aim of the mother’s life.  But in actual fact the child is not given a grain of real love.  That is why she suffers from premature sexual symptoms, like so many other neglected and ill-treated children, while at the same time she is deluged with so-called maternal love.  The homosexual fantasies clearly show that her need for real love is not satisfied; consequently she craves love from her teachers, but of the wrong sort.  If tender feelings are thrown out at the door, then sex in violent form comes in through the window, for besides love and tenderness a child needs understanding.  The right thing in this case would naturally be to treat the mother, which might do something to improve her marriage and deflect her passion from the child, at the same time giving the latter access to her mother’s heart.  Failing that, one can only try to check the mother’s injurious influence by stiffening the child’s resistance to her, so that she will at least be able to criticize her mother’s faults with fairness and become conscious of her own individual needs.  Nothing is more stunting than the efforts of a mother to embody herself in her child, without ever considering that a child is not a mere appendage, but a new and individual creature, often furnished with a character which is not in the least like that of the parents and sometimes seems to be quite frighteningly alien.  The reason for this is that children are only nominally descended from their parents, but are actually born from the ancestral stock.  Occasionally you have to go back several hundred years to see the family likeness.   TDoP 128