They do their homework on time.
Their writing is neat.
They keep their bedroom tidy.
They’re often a little shy.
They want to help their parents.
They use their breaks when cycling down a hill.
Because they don’t pose many immediate problems, society tends to assume that all is well with ‘good children’.
The good child does not seem to be the target for particular concern – that all goes to the kids who are loud, obnoxious and rebellious.
People imagine that good children are fine because they do everything that’s expected of them. That, of course, is precisely the problem.
The secret sorrows or future difficulties of the good boy or girl begin with their inner need for excessive compliance.
The good child isn’t good by a quirk of nature – that they simply have no inclination to be anything else… they are good because they have no other option. Their goodness is a necessity – rather than a choice.
Many good children are good out of love of a depressed, emotional parent who makes it clear that they just couldn’t cope with any more complications or difficulties.
They’re also very good at soothing a very violently angry parent who could become catastrophically frightening at any sign of less-than-perfect conduct.
However, this repression of more challenging emotions – though it produces short-term pleasant obedience – stores up a huge amount of difficulty in later life.
Educators and parents should spot signs of exaddurated politeness and treat it as the grave danger it really is!
The good child – as I know all too well – becomes the keeper of way too many secrets. They say lovely words; they’re experts at satisfying the expectations of their audiences … but their real thoughts and feeling remain buried.
With time, they generate psycho-somatic symptoms, twitches, sudden outbursts and sulphurus bitterness.
The sickness of the good child is that they have no experience of other people being able to tolerate their badness. They’ve missed out a vital priveledge accorded to the healthy child -that of being able to display envious, greedy, egomaniacal sides… and yet be tolerated and loved nevertheless.
The good person typically has particular problems around adolescence. As a child, they may have been praised for being pure and innocent. As they grow into an adult, however, they discover parts of the self – and the world at large – which may be radically at odds with the picture of what they believe they’re allowed to be like. The world is suddenly a filthy place which leaves them disgusted and frightened.
At work, the good adult has problems too. As a child, they follow the rules, never make trouble, and take care not to annoy anyone. But following the rules won’t get one very far in adult life. Almost everything is likely to meet with a degree of opposition. The good child is condemned to sterile people-pleasing.
Being properly mature involves a frank, unfrightened relationship with one’s own dark side, complexities and ambitions. It involves accepting that not everything that makes us happy will please others, or be honoured as especially nice by society… BUT it can be important to explore and hold onto it nevertheless.
The desire to be good is one of the loveliest things in the world. But in order to have a genuinely good life, we may sometimes need to be – by the standards of the good child – fruitfully and bravely BAD.