Giving Your Child Voice
Copyright © 2009 by Richard A. Grossman, Ph.D. · All Rights reserved · E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you value your children's experience, of course they will too. They will feel: "Other people are interested in me. There is something of value inside me. I must be pretty good." There is no better anti-anxiety, anti-depressant, anti-narcissism inoculation than this implicit sense of worth. Children with voice have a sense of identity that belies their years. They stand up for themselves when necessary. They speak their mind and are not easily intimidated. They accept the inevitable frustrations and defeats of life with grace and keep moving forward. They are not afraid to try new things, to take appropriate risks. People of all ages find them a joy to talk with. Their relationships are honest and deep.
Many well-intentioned parents think that they can create the same effect by saying positive things to their children: "I think you're very smart/pretty/special etc. But without entering the child's world, these compliments are seen as false. "If you really felt that way, you would want to know me better," the child thinks. Other parents feel that their role is to give advice or educate their children--they must teach them how to be worthwhile human beings. Sadly, these parents reject the child's experience of the world entirely and do great psychological damage--usually the same damage that was done to them.
Children who are not given "voice" often feel defective and worthless, even if they have received love and attention. Many of their behaviors represent an effort to counter these feelings. Depending on temperament and other factors, they may build protective walls, take drugs to escape, starve and purge themselves to "look better," bully other children, or simply succumb to crippling depression and anxiety.
The psychological problems do not end with childhood. Many of the essays on this web site are devoted to the adult consequences of childhood "voicelessness." These include narcissism, depression, and chronic relationship problems. Much of the therapeutic work I do involves the exploration and repair of voice lost or unrealized in childhood.
But these problems are avoidable. Apply the "rules" from the moment of birth. Work hard at keeping the door to your child's inner life open. Learn. Discover the richness of your child's experience. There is no more valuable gift you can give your child--or yourself.
Voicelessness and Emotional Survival
Giving Your Child Voice