The myth of the good child

“You ate all your food; you don’t make a fuss, so you’re a good child!”

“You hit your brother, you broke the plate, what a bad child you are!”

Is there a good child and a bad child, and if so, what is it that makes one child better than another?
A good child, for most, maybe the one who harmonizes the commandments and obeys the elders (whether parents or teachers), and bad is what he opposes because he wants to draw his directions.

Having idealized his parents as models of behavior and ideal adults, a child cannot challenge them and react when he receives any kind of abuse-oppression (physical, verbal, emotional, psychological). Besides, he blames himself, considering that he is continually doing something wrong. For example, if his parents are aggressive towards him, with frequent handcuffs, he gets the message that he is responsible for what is happening to him and ultimately that he deserves it because he is bad.

Most parents often use this “bloodless” argument: “I beat/yell at you/ punish you for doing something bad, a mistake.” The punishment is about the person; the child is the “mistake.” Essentially, though, they mean, “I argue with you to correct you, not to correct the mistake.” But how could hitting/ voices/ punishment correct a mistake or repair damage? The punishment targets the person; the child is the “wrong.”

Therefore, parents associate how good their child is with whether he or she succeeds in something or obeys what they are asking for. Many times, this “innocent” sentence can also be used to harmonise the child’s behavior with adults’ needs.

So is it bad for a child who wants to run, shout, laugh, explore his environment and good for the child who sits obedient, wise, silent?

However, in children’s minds, being good children is about whether they are accepted and, by extension, loved by their parents. For some children, this phrase can prove particularly traumatic, and they struggle throughout their lives to be the “good” children to gain the acceptance and love of others.

But the love of parents, in particular, must be given and unconditional, not dependent on “good” actions and behaviors. There are no good and bad children; there are only children with needs, children wonderful and unique. Let’s love them for what they are and not for what they do.