A talk in Mandarin was scheduled at Toa Payoh West CC, organized jointly by MCYS and Aoxiang Counseling Services, titled “The hidden dangers of The Obedient Child”.
Having such a catchy title [typically, Chinese families hoped for The Obedient Child, thus many were interested to find out the hidden dangers behind having such a child], many turned up for the talk. The talk overran its original scheduled 3 hours.
I also attended the talk, and left with a lot of thought-provoking messages in my mind.
Here’s my amateurish attempt at translating the hand-outs which is in Mandarin to English, hopefully it will benefit you like it had benefited me.
Do note that this hand-out is an exaggeration of what might happen to The Obedient Child. Many a times, through the help of religion, encouraging friends, counseling, self-help books or other avenues, the situation would often be less gloomy.
“The hidden dangers of The Obedient Child”.
Have you ever seen a lively child, who speaks free, runs around madly, and somehow, yet you feel like interacting with him?
Have you similarly seen The Obedient Child, standing around, and yet somehow, you feel like distancing yourself from him?
Usually, the child that attracts a person’s attention, and desires to be near, is the one who is being true to himself, and of course not lacking in the proper manners.
The growing up process of The Obedient Child
From a tender age, having a deep worry that his parents would not be able to accept his real self, The Obedient Child learnt to try his utmost best in learning to be Obedient, the ways his parents wanted.
As time passes, upon realizing there is a gap between his real self and The Obedient Child he had showed successfully in front of his parents, he begins to despise his real self.
A feeling of guilt slowly develops behind closed doors. He kept suppressing his real self, and is so used to being The Obedient Child that he slowly forgets how his real self is like.
The Obedient Child, in his attempt to define his value based on his ability to get his parents’ approval and praises, slowly loses his innate ability to feel fulfilled or satisfied inside. He is forever careful about not doing anything that might earn his parents’ disapproval.
The Obedient Child will slowly develop the perception that nobody will ever accept him for who he is, but rather people accept him for what he could do for them.
Inappropriate Interpersonal Relationships
If assuming from young, The Obedient Child gets his sense of fulfillment from carrying out parent-defined tasks, he might develop the perception that an ability to earn more money, run the household better, or offer better sex, would be the way to earn his partner’s respect and approval.
But in real life, what a partner want, would be just enjoying the little joys in life. But The Obedient Child might not be able to appreciate the little joys, believing in the perception that his partner will ever accept him for who he is, but accept him for what he could do for them.
Most importantly, what is sadly lacking in The Obedient Child, might be a healthy self-esteem, or possibility steady emotions.
The motivation for being The Obedient Child
In the process of self-discovery, understanding that by being well-mannered and having the right principles and attitude to life, in order for the development of a healthy self-esteem which will in turn lead to fulfilling interpersonal relationships, are what we all should try to achieve.
For The Obedient Child, his motivation would be his fear of losing others’ approval, and thus, he would be over-accommodating. He thus lost his ability to say no, and his inner self-confidence.
The Obedient Child might be living the life of a puppet. Their parents feel that they do not have to worry about The Obedient Child, and thus tend to neglect The Obedient Child’s inner emotional needs.
When The Obedient Child becomes an adult, as they never had a chance to be their real self, their emotional development tends to be incomplete, living with a constant fear of not being accepted by people.
In reality, social workers prefer those rebellious and defiant child, as at least, they expressed out their inner emotions, and are in touch with how they feel.
The Obedient Child, having lost touch with his inner most feelings, might now not be able to fully comprehend how he is feeling, and whatever ones cannot comprehend, one cannot change.
Studies have shown that many young adults, who experienced major and repetitive episodes of depression, are those who were The Obedient Child when they were young, and thus the parents are not able to understand why they are now battling depression.
Encouraging parents should give their child the freedom to express how they feel, teaching them the appropriate terms like sadness, hateful, frustrated, angry, unjustified, jealous, excited, grateful, shyness, worry, etc.
Parents should refrain from judging their emotions or passing any negative comments.
Parents should also avoid telling the child that he should not feel the way he felt.
Only after the child had expressed his view, should parents then guide them to choose an appropriate course of action to handle the situation.
Most Obedient Child tends to be children with a good IQ, thus they are great at using the words, actions, and behaviors that they know would please their parents. But in this long tedious process, they gradually lost their sense of self, and lost touch with their feelings and emotions.
Thus, many a times, The Obedient Child will grow up to be an adult with minimum facial expressions. Some people might describe them as stoned. At work, they tend to stick to just one domain of work, and only have those few friends. Most tend to be loners, and dislikes socializing.
Due to his parents’ strong insistence on him being The Obedient Child, he is unable to have fulfilling interpersonal relationships, and thus is at a higher risk of developing split-personalities.
The hidden danger - Suppressed emotions waiting to erupt
The Obedient Child, in a desperate attempt not to be abandoned, will try to show that he is better, stronger. His emotional burden is overly heavy, he fears failure, and thus at times, when he cannot do a certain thing to his perceived high standard that others might have of him, he paves his own way to an emotional breakdown.
The Obedient Child is often deeply unsatisfied, he despise his real self, and yet, throws himself to despair upon meeting a single failure.
Often, upon meeting with a single failure, all the suppressed emotions erupt. The very real feeling of abandoned to The Obedient Child might magnify his disappointment with any current failure or dissatisfaction.
A lifelong slave to his suppressed emotions
On the surface, The Obedient Child might seem to have a harmonious relationship with his parents, but in reality, his heart had never connected with his parents.
A person with a healthy self-esteem would never forsake his real self, in order to gain others’ acceptance, a yes would mean a yes, and they would not be afraid of saying no. Such a straight forward behavior would in turn attract people’s admiration, as they would feel at ease with the person, without any restrictions or false behavior.
Having given up his real self, life loses its colors
The Obedient Child, having given up his real self, will find that life is without colors. There would often be an invisible pressure upon his shoulders, and he feels that life is a long meaningless journey.
He lacks self-confidence, lacks security, and becomes so good at observing people’s moods, that he forgot that his opinions matters too.
The Obedient Child, who might never have learnt to play in the mud, and never learnt that true loves comes with no conditions attached, will never feel totally at ease, even with his own spouse.
In real life, perfection is impossible. Unfortunately, The Obedient Child never gets a chance or the permission to live an imperfect life.
The Obedient Child had been taught from young to be Obedient, but what does it really mean? It certainly does not mean giving up your real self.
Parents need to take note of this. Rather than expecting full compliance, perhaps parents could welcome discussions.
The Obedient Child, who is not allowed to live out his real self over a long period of time, might feel that life is a misery. This in itself, is a tragedy indeed.