In the moment—right now—what you may want is that your child stop bouncing off the walls, throwing tantrums, hating school, playing so many video games, not listening, or acting so morose.
Maybe you want him or her to be less curt, less weird, more helpful, less sullen, less defiant, a better student, more responsible, or less annoying. All of that is what you want from your child. But what do you want for your child? That turns out to be a very hard question to answer because it involves us in significant contradictions. Do we want what we want or what our child wants? And even if our wants are congruent, how do we help our child get there?
We want our child to be happy but we also know that our child is bound to have to deal with many unhappy events and circumstances—unpleasant jobs, career disappointments, relationship breakups, illnesses, and all the rest. Do we steel our child to that reality? Or do we gloss that over? Do we try to produce a little Stoic or a little Pollyanna? Do we encourage our child to be the dancer he or she wants to be or almost anything else? Do we try to encourage our child to be more sociable, for his or her own sake, even though he or she is dreadfully shy? Or do we hope that with time he or she will outgrow that social anxiety? What outcomes do we want? And is pressing for them the right game plan?
Embrace how difficult it is to answer the question, “What do I want for my child?” The mental disorder paradigm makes it seem as if all that we are after as parents is the elimination of our child’s “symptoms.” Is that all that we want for our child? Is that even the main thing? Or is the picture more complicated than that?
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Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.