Parents V. Children

We all want, “the best” for our children.   So why isn’t it obvious that we’re doing things for their own good and why does it sometimes turn into a fight?

What do parents actually “want” in terms of their motivation to invest time and effort in their children?  They want each of the children to survive and thrive.  For hundreds of thousands of years of human history, having more successful children meant more influence on what happened while you were alive and more of your genes in the gene pool after you were dead.

With more than one child, you want to give each equal help.  Apart from favouring one over the others not being fair, it is the “best” option from a genetic point of view .  If you rely on only one child, abandon the others and that one dies or for some reason is not successful in reproducing, your genes reduce in future generations. 

By contrast, what does each child want?  Obviously, it is in the interests of each child to get maximum support, the investment of time and energy for themselves.  You might love your siblings, but they are rivals for your parents’ time and effort.  You want your parents to invest 100% in you, but your siblings all want 100% for themselves. 

There is only 100% in total to go round.  Each child wants as much as they can get and parents want to distribute investment of time and energy equally.  You have a conflict between what each child wants to have and what the parent wants to give. 

So as children, we compete with siblings (and anybody else around) for investment of time etc.  But with older competitors around competition is hard, they are bigger, stronger, more experienced.  For that reason, children in one family tend to get into different roles, they carve out an area (studious, practical, joker, etc.) that they can make their own and out compete the opposition. 

Then, when they go to school, they have a different group to compete with.  If there is already a strong, powerful leader in a group the child joining that group either has to be even stronger and more powerful or adopt another role.  The role they have in the family might not work at school, or they might be members of different groups in the locality (which might include one or more siblings) and at school (which might also include siblings).  Most children are involved in various groups with their siblings and peers, trying to forge an identity, compete successfully and get the maximum support they can from parents and other authority figures. 

Children don’t actually compete with their parents – they compete with peers for the support, love, time and investment of parents and authority figures. 

And children don’t want to “be like” their parents.   If they wanted that  they would spend time paying bills, moaning about the Government and doing laundry, they wouldn’t bother about bands their parents have never heard of, buy clothes they think are horrible or like activities they don’t understand!

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