The Curse of the “Good” Child
What’s the cost of being the “good one,” the one expected to follow the path promised with lavish confetti and head nods of approval in the family?
You might guess that the “good child or the favorite” doesn’t end up in therapy as often as the so-called Black Sheep of the family. See related article on the Black Sheep: The “One” in the Filipino Family.
Research is still brewing in terms of providing us a quantitative data on this but as a practitioner, the good child syndrome shows up not far behind the damage caused by being labeled “ the bad child.”
The consequences of following rigid rules that beefed up the false sense of self of the good child can be daunting to shake-off. Like taking off a gem-studded tight clothing in exchange for one that fits perfectly well.
The challenge is that the good child doesn’t know (yet) that there’s clothing that fits him perfectly well, only that he has to go naked for a moment from removing a tightly-fitted one.
PSYCHOLOGICALLY CONTROLLING PARENTS
Exposure to parenting practices of your own set of parents can lead to your own style of parenting. Research on intergenerational transmission tells us that when you’re running on auto-pilot parenting, you are likely to parent like your own parent (Van Ijzendoorn, 2020).
Psychologically controlling parents are those who use shame, guilt-induction, personal attack and love withdrawal strategies. In the case of the labeled Black Sheep in the family, it’s easier to detect when such strategies are in play.
This is when you hear the words-
Hayaan mo na yan. Matigas talaga ulo niyan (let him be. He’s always so hard-headed).
Yan pa. Hindi mo yan mapagsabihan (that one. You can’t even tell him what to do- conveying disgust tone of disobedience).
But more often, these words get lost in stories passed on about the “bad child,” the favorite topic to open up awkward meetings or used to get on someone’s good side-
Oh, kamusta na yang anak mong si JunJun. Nagsusugal pa ba? (how’s your son, JunJun? Is he still gambling)?
Psychologically controlling parents were likely parented by one or they despised the way the were treated as a child, they vowed never to be the same parent.
The problem arise when you become sold to be another type of parenting under the spell of fear. To run your parenting with the gas of fear can be a driving force to rigid and controlling parenting style to avoid the fear, you once again are recreating.
The expectations of your parenting is vouched on your child becoming buried with unrealistic and rigid standards. At times, the opposite is true, the standard is to have no standard or parenting with poor boundaries which is the same gas of fear in different colored vehicles.
The Black Sheep is obviously the one who isn’t cut-out for these expectations.
But without the good child to rub into such disgrace and disappointment, the message of straying from these unrealistic standards (by the Black Sheep) isn’t as lucrative for a parenting running on fear.
Learn more about the distinct ways Filipinx communicate differently especially in the context of the western culture. Access the Speak the Pinoy Love Language Webinar here.
THE CURSE OF THE GOOD CHILD
The creation of the false sense of self becomes the very trap that keeps the good child striving for that good ‘ol feeling of approval.
In the beginning, the child is conditioned to perform, to be placed on a pedestal higher than the rest. She becomes the epitome of the projection of her parents enamored by their attention or at the very least receives the least punishment in the household.
You can imagine how this child becomes particular and sensitive to her parent’s change in facial features, a slight look of disappointment, a grimace can change her course of action. She has been made to please rather than to learn (to also) please herself.
One of the curse of the good child is the lost of connection with her own emotional states. Since she’s attuned to her parent’s emotional states more than her own, the good child may become easily dysregulated with external sources of stress.
As being good becomes her false sense of self, maintaining this goodness even in adulthood can be draining. The good child uses self-criticism as a broken, dilapidated ladder to keep reaching the height of that pedestal.
In many ways, it makes sense for the good child to keep reaching high for he had only been noticed (by his parents/caregivers) from this vantage point. Any height lower will be tragic and would be a threat to his goodness.
In the meantime, everyone else gets a stiffed neck watching the good child from this illusionary pedestal, especially those who need to be less so that he can be more- his siblings.
Depending on the birth order of the good child, the latter can play the role of an advisor, caretaker, the savior of the family, the calm one. The picture of a tattletale child who keeps telling on his siblings to promote his goodness and the badness of others is not always the picture.
The curse of the good child is that her parents have piled layers of clothing on her. These clothing have kept her superficially beautiful and even warm with attention, for any attention is good enough attention for a child.
Many take on their self-criticism as part of their personhood and therefore, prefer to keep it to maintain the illusion of goodness.
They may not be happy but at least they’re good in their own minds.
The very curse of raising the good child is this.
For those awakened enough to get a glimpse that their self-criticism is a creation of someone else’s shadow, there is much hope.
The unveiling of these layers of clothing can be a painful process but always worthwhile.
You are neither good nor bad.
GOOD TO GOOD ENOUGH
It’s easy to see that a labeled child can go on labeling others as good or bad.
The body keeps tabs on safety and belonging. We all want to belong so you stay here and I stay there mantra works for the good child.
It can happen that the good child may complain about criticism from others. She is unaware that she is critical first.
She is also unable to focus on her creativity which is a leeway given to the Black Sheep because the latter is believed to do what she wants anyway; the good child does—only good.
How can you begin to be good enough?
The focus on the next step, what’s next mindset is the trap of the good child. In beginning, you are unveiling a layer at a time, be kind to yourself and seek professional help if you need it or consult with me here.
Being good is focused on the destination, getting there rather than being here. What is there rather than how to get there is the familiar path. In reality there is no there, just now.
As your eyes leave words and letters from this article, like that sentence you just read. That is then and you are here NOW. Focus on that word NOW. Make it bigger. Let it spin around. Let it hop in your imagination. Close your eyes if your called to do so and just let that word do as you like….
The power of being in the now cannot be understated. This takes practice and intention. The more you witness the NOW, the more you are released to what to do next which is the spiral the good child is on.
You can also begin to write on your journal everything you want to see in you and in the world with great detail and clarity in present tense. For example-
I am enjoying my coffee while laughing and socializing with new friends. I am taking a shower and the water feels warm in my back. I am eating nutritious foods and I cannot wait to make every cells in my body come alive.
In addition, make your old beliefs a things of the past by writing them in the past tense. For example-
I used to be anxious talking in front of a lot of people. I used to shake when I hear my mother scream out my name. Now, I feel alert and calm ( you can add the present tense alongside too).
Sometimes, repetition and practice is all you need. Please don’t feel frustrated if you can’t do it alone. Some people do well with support, seek professional help or consult with a Pinay therapist here.
When parents rear their children out of fear not to be like the parent they despise; they become like them.
The over-focus on labeling children as good or bad creates dissonance into the latter distrusting their own emotions, gut feeling and the language of their bodies.
Instead they rely on external output of rewards- is this good or bad? Did I make mommy happy or mad?
Access your free IN THE MOMENT meditation audio here.
The good child is showered with the seemingly positive external reward of her parents’ attention. Every attention of this kind is a layer of clothing that distracts the good child from her true sense of self.
Alas, every layer of clothing can be undressed allowing the good child to reveal him/her.
Neither good nor bad.
Access your free IN THE MOMENT meditation audio here.
Roanne has been a Psychotherapist for more than 15 years. She has frequented at least 500 Filipino homes and counting. She is the author of the Ebook: 5 Pinoy Love Languages and the creator of the presentation entitled: Filipino Core Values & Considerations in Culturally Responsive Care. To access self-paced courses and other resources, enter the Kalamansi Juice Academy.
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