Mon Jul 30, 2012, 04:49 PM
XemaSab (58,177 posts)
How to Raise a Child: ‘Teach Your Children Well,’ by Madeline Levine
It would be easy, on first glance, to dismiss Madeline Levine’s “Teach Your Children Well” as yet another new arrival in a long line of books that have urged us, in the past decade or so, to push back and just say no to the pressures of perfectionistic, high-performance parenting. But to give in to first impressions would be a mistake.
For Levine’s latest book is, in fact, a cri de coeur from a clinician on the front lines of the battle between our better natures — parents’ deep and true love and concern for their kids — and our culture’s worst competitive and materialistic influences, all of which she sees played out, day after day, in her private psychology practice in affluent Marin County, Calif. Levine works with teenagers who are depleted, angry and sad as they compete for admission to a handful of big-name colleges, and with parents who can’t steady or guide them, so lost are they in the pursuit of goals that have drained their lives of pleasure, contentment and connection. “Our current version of success is a failure,” she writes. It’s a damning, and altogether accurate, clinical diagnosis.
Levine’s previous book, “The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids,” opened with the image of a “bright, personable, highly pressured” 15-year-old girl with wealthy parents, who seemed, on the surface, to have it all. But a glimpse at her forearm revealed that she had also carved the word “empty” into her flesh with a razor. Teenagers like this, and adoring if preoccupied adults like her parents, haunt the pages of “Teach Your Children Well.”
One academically talented girl in Levine’s care is knocked off her feet by self-loathing and grief after she’s rejected from a particularly desirable college. She “lies in bed for days,” Levine writes. “She will not get up, and when I visit her at home, all she can say through her streaming tears is: ‘It was all for nothing. I’m a complete failure.’ ”
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Response to XemaSab (Original post)
Mon Jul 30, 2012, 05:20 PM
Fumesucker (34,953 posts)
1. Good article, thanks for posting..
I liked the summary sentence/paragraph at the end.
After all, as Levine notes, the inconvenient truth remains that not every child can be shaped and accelerated into Harvard material. But all kids can have their spirits broken, depression induced and anxiety stoked by too much stress, too little downtime and too much attention given to external factors that make them look good to an audience of appraising eyes but leave them feeling rotten inside.
Response to XemaSab (Original post)
Mon Jul 30, 2012, 05:33 PM
chervilant (5,172 posts)
2. Thank you
for this thread, XemaSab. I have a few observations I'd like to share:
1) In my 30+ years as an advocate for survivors of relationship violence, I've heard countless, pain-filled stories of verbal abuse, abuse that often began in childhood, abuse that leaves no visible marks, yet remains a source of doubt and a killer of self-esteem for months or years after a survivor escapes their abuser(s). I have heard survivors make pejorative statements about themselves that are clearly the relentless voices of their verbal abusers and/or their own parents. These messages are deeply embedded in survivors' brains, convincing them that they are "worthless, lazy, fat, ugly, stupid," ad infinitum, ad nauseum. This psychic wounding has been with us for centuries, thus the old (untrue) adage: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."
2) Relationship violence and other forms of interpersonal violence are practiced and perfected in our childhoods, primarily within the hallowed halls of our systems of public education. Our species perpetuates these behaviors by failing to address bullying when it occurs, and by failing to hold bullies responsible for their behavior. We are apparently SO incapable of addressing bullying that we elevate 'assertive, Type A' personalities, while striving to disassociate from 'victims,' who are universally perceived as weak and 'less than.'
3) we are not, nor have we ever been, a child-centric society. Most parents persist in treating their children as property, or wee automatons into which they can implant their dreams, their beliefs, their aspirations. Alice Miller has written a number of excellent books regarding our species' poisonous pedagogy (I recommend Thou Shalt not be Aware, and For your own Good). Now that we're living in exponential times, our precious children are snapping to this reality at a much younger age.
I've said this before, but it bears repeating:
I continue watching as more and more of us resort to 'react' mode, letting our inchoate fears and frustrations manifest as road rage, name-calling, misogyny, derision, condescension, sarcasm, and other forms of mental, emotional and physical violence. Do I think we humans are experiencing a critical tipping point in our evolution as a species? You bet. Worse, we're bequeathing to our children and our children's children an irretrievably defiled planet, and little hope for a future.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.