Loss of authority, growing guilt, all agree that parents too often make amends. Nicole Prieur sets the record straight.
Interview by Cécile Guéret
Psychologies: Do today's parents apologize too much to their children?
Nicole Prieur : Those I receive are justified and apologize for doing so much. I think this comes in part from the psychologization of parenthood - the idea that parents need to be guided, accompanied. This is partly right, but it also has the perverse effect of infantilize. They lose their common sense, their creativity and are afraid of never being up to it. Even the idea of being, in the words of Donald W. Winnicott , a "good enough" parent, is a standard to be reached! Is one enough "good enough"? The more understanding parents have, the more they worry and feel guilty about not being as they should be. I can see how tormented that their child does not do enough "his Oedipus". In the media, in books, in the eyes of other parents, they read continuously "can do better".
Why do parents doubt so much of themselves?
N. P. : Because there are so many different parenting models that they do not know what to rely on. Not only is there less generation-to-generation transmission, but from one child to another parents sometimes do not have the same information! In the maternity ward, for example, a mother is told that breastfeeding is not necessary. And five years later, when her second child is born, the same team makes her realize that if she does not breastfeed, she is not a good mother. They must therefore constantly invent themselves as parents. In a precarious societal context on the professional level, in love, they must be solid to trust themselves! Especially since, for their part, the children do not let anything pass.
Do children judge their parents more than before?
N. P. : Yes, but it is done in synergy with parents who put themselves in a position to be criticized. Before, the status of parent was enough to be authoritative. Today, society recognizes their place less and in the family, the operation is more democratic. This is a good thing, provided there is still a pilot on the plane. Parents who do not put limits, apologize all the time or say yes to everything put the children in great insecurity. To grow up, children must indeed oppose them, so have limits against which to abut.Parents embody that framework through which children build their psychic boundaries. "First and foremost, we need parents who survive," said Winnicott, "that is, parents who hold on, who do not collapse.