Parenting: How Criticisms and Nagging Backfire

Children give their parents what the parents seem to needMell Lazarus, the cartoonist who created Miss Peach, writes a very creative comic called Momma. I wish it were in a lot more newspapers. He understands something paramount about family dynamics that it seems a lot of so-called parenting experts do not address or even seem to notice. Psychiatrists and pediatricians who prescribe medications for children who supposedly have "ADHD" or "Pediatric Bipolar Disorder" never even ask their teenage patients about it - or inquire in any detail about much of anything that goes on at home between them and their parents.I've included in this post several of his strips that demonstrate how tuned into this process Mr. Lazarus is. The dynamics can be described quite simply in three sentences:1. If a parent repeatedly criticizes a child or a teenager about the very same behaviors, the child will not only not stop them, but will continue or even dramatically increase them.2. If a parent continually nags a child or teenager to do the same things, the child will not only refrain from doing what the parent is ostensibly asking for, but will studiously avoid doing so - or do the exact opposite.3. If a parent continually tells children or teenagers they have some trait, or lacks some trait, the children will compulsively act out the trait they have been told they have, and/or will compulsively avoid doing anything that suggests they actually have any trait they have been told they lack.So why is this? Well, if parents obsessively do something, children will conclude that they parents either need to do it and/or enjoy doing it, even if the parents repeatedly deny it. Actions speak louder than words. Far be it for any child to deprive a parent of a cherished role. So, if the parents seem to like or need to nag or criticize, their children will continue to misbehave. If the parents compulsively state or predict that the child has or will develop a negative trait, their children will continue to prove them right. They do these things so that the parents will feel good about themselves, not because they enjoy have negative traits.


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