mother children Children, Adolescents

 & the Family

Some Topics


Parents with more than one child are treated to a daily drama of interaction that involves some pleasant and some unpleasant experiences. Beginning parents will often believe that their children should be similar to themselves and should display all their most positive qualities. This hopeful assumption will lead inevitably to disappointment.

Each child is different, sometimes dramatically different from other siblings and the parents. The variance in IQ score among 3 siblings in a family will, for example, be as great as the variance in the community at large. The differences in the performance of school work and social adaptation will alarm and confuse parents who expect to adhere to a high family standard. The higher the expectations, the greater the disappointment when a child fails to achieve or rebels.

The variance among siblings can involve every aspect of living. We will consider the importance of food choices in determining biological outcomes and recognize that one child may do well on “normal food” and another will be sick or disabled. Even siblings that are reasonably alike, will compete, argue and fight.

Parents learn than conflict is a natural tendency among humans and the ongoing lessons built into family life revolve around winning, losing and negotiation for the best deal. In the best case, siblings learn to respect each others differences, respect private spaces and learn to cooperate. In the worst case siblings compete relentlessly, do battle and split the family in ongoing conflicts motivated by the drive to gain more resources, more privileges and improved status.

Often, one family member has more problems than other family members. Sometimes one parent is dysfunctional and produces a cascade of dysfunction that disturbs every other member of the family. When one sibling is dysfunctional, the other siblings suffer in a variety of ways. One child, the normal one, for example, may adopt a supportive, even a parenting role, providing adult-like service for parents and siblings. A disturbed child will interfere with and can end the marriage relationship of the parents.

While more normal children might complain of extra responsibility, their service is a model of altruistic behavior than must be present in every family and every community.  When parents are in conflict and fail to cooperate in the daily maintenance of family, it is a usually a matter of time before the children become dysfunctional.

In the oldest tradition of human communities, the extended family would assume parenting duties if the biological parents failed or disappeared. Because nuclear families often move away and become isolated from close relatives, the failure of marriage cooperation is more devastating.

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  • Children and the Family by Stephen Gislason MD examines the intense interactions of parents and children. From Dr. G's preface:" Parents receive a lot of advice from many people. Popular magazines and books offer a continuous stream of conflicting advice. Professionals have a variety of opinions about child-rearing that range from helpful suggestions to misleading and even bizarre ideas. Child psychology is an eclectic assembly of ideas, miscellaneous observations, opinions, fears and irrational beliefs. Confusion prevails in education about what children should learn and how they should learn it. If psychologists, physicians, and educators are confused, what about parents? Parenting is difficult and long-term relationships sometimes fail. The best parents are pragmatic and not theorists. They stay involved with their children, follow some basic guidelines they learned and tend to do whatever works. Good parents improvise childcare with a combination of innate generosity, common sense, love and concessions to the demands of modern life."

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    Additional recommended reading includes the books
     Intelligence & Learning,  Language and Thinking  Feeding Children and the Alpha Nutrition Program

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