Philippe Jeammet : reflections on parenthood

Human beings have a natural ability for raising children, otherwise humankind would cease to exist. But it is true that recent social evolution makes this role more complex, if not more difficult. The permissiveness of western society has partly removed a certain consensus about the disciplinary rules that once intervened as a third party between the desires of the parents and those of the children. This loss, while in many ways beneficial, has the disadvantage of giving rise to an incestual type of closeness between the partners and fostering a narcissistic investment between them, blurring the limits. What differentiates the child from the adolescent then is what escapes the parents’ desire, that is everything having to do with opposition, dissatisfaction, provocation and, potentially, destructiveness. « This is me », the youngster can say, because it puts the adult in a position of failure and impotence, allowing the youngster to escape from the anxiety of abandonment, because he causes worry, and from the anxiety of fusion and intrusion that shared pleasure can give rise to.
However, this invitation to the parents to « understand » their emotional relations with their children must not paralyze them in their action and their spontaneity, and reinforce the situation wherein the children are expected to dictate their upbringing to their parents, whose place they would then take, in a way. It appears more favorable to free their confidence in their own capacity for being parents, while dissuading them from wanting to control everything and from blaming themselves as soon as any problem arises. On the other hand, any lasting difficulty that arises which prevents the youngster from feeding on what he needs to develop, thus reinforcing a pathogenic dependence on the adult and the necessity of opposing in order to differentiate himself, to the detriment of the development of his abilities, cries out for both a firm limit set by the parents on destructive behavior and an opening towards a third party as a way out of this sterile confrontation.