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Nicole Kotila

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If parents showed more of themselves, would kids develop better, healthier coping skills?

I have been trying to determine a cause to why so many children, teens and young adults take to self-injury, drugs, sex, or eating disorders.
I believe that if their parents opened up more about their struggles, and their ways to deal with the stress of life, their children would be better equipped to find safer ways to cope with life.

So, if you are a parent, do you think that letting your children see you as less than perfect is something you could do? Knowing that by watching you struggle and fight to be better, that they would be better for it?

And kids, do you think that some of our coping skills are learned from our parents? If things changed, do you think it would help us?

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  • Aug 3 2012: I always tell my kids why something is right or wrong. I stay away from "because I said so" because I always want them to know why I feel the way I do. I also make sure that they know the difference between being critical of a behavior and being critical of them as a person. I tell thyem about what was right and wrong in my own childhood and why I feel the way I do about certain things. I don't believe in keeping information from them and try to expalin things as best I can for their age.
    I don't know if I am right all the time, but I know I am doing my best.
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    Jul 30 2012: Its really hard to hide much of oneself when you live with another 24/7 for years. I am the mother of 5 people and I might be the only one here who has no real idea of the answer. I just seem to get the best evidence I can and then try as hard as I can and not give up.We live in challenging times and when my own were teens and young adults they hastened to tell me that i lost input years before when teens and peers became their focus. Mine turned into fine human beings but I credit them for that.
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    Jul 30 2012: You pose your question thoughtfully. I think parents have no choice but to represent themselves as less than perfect. It is not as if children do not notice!
    The question of which struggles to share and which not is an important one faced by all parents. The best answers depend in part on the child's age and temperament. There is value, for example, for a small child in feeling the family to be a safe place and the parents to be a bedrock. As the child has no basis for evaluating the seriousness of adults' personal issues or the resources adults may call upon to resolve those, laying open all the adult struggles to the small child may be misleading, overwhelming, and lead to insecurity. Current adults who observed their parents fighting openly in front of them probably would not suggest that they felt enriched or empowered by this open sharing of struggles. In fact it may have distanced the child from whatever good advice the parent may have had to offer.
    On the other hand, as children encounter their own challenges, it can be highly useful for parents to share their similar experiences at that age.
    As a child reaches into adulthood, parents have some ground for sharing the issues and problems that may arise in adult life.
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      Jul 30 2012: You're right,

      The fighting between two parents can be a likely cause of distancing the parents and children. They spend more time fighting and less time listening to the kid. And what's worse is, sometimes the kid may have concluded that it was his/her own fault for the reason the parents are fighting. And I'd imagine that's a horrible feeling when you put that kind of blame on yourself.

      But either way, kids want people who can listen to what they have to say.
  • Sandy S

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    Aug 3 2012: In a word, yes.

    I have two children, a daughter and a son. We would be spending time together having a happy moment and they would say "mommy, you're perfect!" and I would tell them only God is perfect. I let them know that I just do the best the can and make it look easy. I let them know there is no shame in a good cry, a healthy scream or having "alone" time to grieve, reflect or plot and scheme LOL. I talk to my children about why I'm angry, sad, happy, whatever, within reason (appropriate to their age and level of understanding). When they go through something, I let have their moment(s) and then I'm there for them. Raising children by alternating between "be seen and not heard" and babying them has us dealing with a least a generation of emotionally stunted young adults.

    The flip side of this is: There are two ways to learn something. Either emulate a positive action or do the opposite of a negative one. At some point even children realize their parent(s) might not deal with stress the best way and in that moment they can decide to react differently.
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    Jul 31 2012: Before you can let you kids see more of your true self, you have to let yourself see it. I believe that honesty with oneself is the first and most difficult step in spiritual growth.
  • Jul 30 2012: Hi Nicole, if your question is to explain why so many children take to drugs, self injury, etc... I do not think it has to do with parents opening up about their struggles and imperfections. I think it has more to do with two factors: communication and love. Kids and young people need to feel they are respected and listened to and above all that they are loved.
    Both factors are complementary. To talk without love is useless prattle and to love without communication is sterile.
    • Jul 31 2012: Thanks David. I hadn't factored in either of those.
      I'm not sure if the cycle kids and teens are currently in can be changed, but with more open communication-- and reminders that kids are loved--I think progress can be made.
      I will keep both in mind in the future.
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    Jul 30 2012: I agree, I've been thinking exactly the same thing.

    Parents are the best role models imo. Nothing is cooler if your father or mother were heroes in some respect, setting good examples. And Parents also need to show that they care.
  • Aug 6 2012: ABSOLUTELY!!
    My favorite author, Leo Buscaglia, said that when he was growing up, his dad came to them and said "What are 'we' going to do?" And the whole family came together to help out as well as they could.
    I think it could helkp immensely if people were to quit focusing on the results so much, & focus more on finding the positive paths, (and doing so fairly).
    Growth usually is slow, (at least "strong growth").
    Brene Brown does a very nice job talking about shame in our culture, andl the damage that is doing to us. I believe very much in that.
  • Aug 3 2012: Yes. I believe the parents simply are/must be the primary source of coping skills. Otherwise, you'll see kids copying what their friends use as coping mechanisms.

    As a parent, your children will realize your imperfections when they grow up. They'll either imitate them or try to be far from your example. It is all a matter of giving them the right set of morals in childhood to work with in young/adulthood. In doing this, the child filters what is good from the people they meet, and choose the right people to be with. Because, I can meet your five closest friends and already know who you are and even guess your mechanisms.

    The parents' presence will make all the difference. And the effects and symptoms of bad parenting show up in adulthood. Each family dinner(activity) will make a difference. I believe you are right that being open and having a close relationship with your kids does equip them well. Just.. you know... equip them with the right skills. (Don't teach em to get a pack of smokes. =.=")

    As someone who doesn't have children, I don't know diapers. But as a child, I do know a bunch of things my parents could have done differently. It falls upon me to correct the imperfections they passed on to me. But I am thankful they did their best. (I'm sure every parent does.) And I am even more thankful that all their efforts made me turn out fine.

    Actually, you could look into your own history. Were your parents always there to learn from? What kind of skills did you acquire with/without them?
    I hope I helped(even if its just a little bit). :D
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    Aug 3 2012: I disagree with your premise. The problem is much deeper than that. This culture's worldview is so screwed up and contrary to how life actually works, it's a wonder that as many are coping as are. Chronic stress seems to be prevalent throughout though. Your parents never had to deal with the stress that we are all dealing with today. A lot has happened in only a few years.
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    Aug 3 2012: To me this parenting thing is sort of paradoxical. On the one hand parents should establish their roles as admirable and formidable heroes so that children can always seek for help from their parents when necessary. However, to achieve this requires some kind of covering up and shielding aspects they are adept into. Also parents use a pessimistic and unrealistic intimidation to teach children not to do certain things: for instance, when a child keep playing with a soccer ball and doesn't want to return home, parents would say"come on, hurry up, the demon is gonna eat our house if we don't return immediately." In my view, parents should try telling the essence of everything to children, so their kids' childhood will not marked by an unforgettable event, which will possibly lead to psychological disorders or stress.
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    Aug 3 2012: My parents have always been kind of hard on me. But I learn from that to not be a complete snot. They never really talk to me about drugs or self injury but I'm smart enough to keep myself from doing such things. I know how to cope with life without the aid of my parents. But, I agree with you that this Is a pretty big issue and not all kid's are like me. I think the only problem is getting the word out about this since I personally believe that parents opening up to their children would save a lot of kid's from going down the wrong path.
  • Aug 2 2012: I love how many perspectives are shown on this forum. You could say TED is a modern day repository for societal wisdom.

    Perhaps we could inform kids that they are good people from the start? Teach them to believe in their abilities and not judge themselves or others unfairly. And back it up by believing we as parents are good and deserving souls as well. Perhaps we could share with them methods of dealing with the stronger emotions constructively? In this society one very important skill is how to fail at something without undermining your self-worth. Being a good sport about life and not taking things too personally is something that has to be taught by example or learned the hard way most of the time.

    I've spoken with those who self-harm, often this is caused by a deep seated belief that they are intrinsically bad and deserve to be punished for the way they think. Some dogmas in society reinforce this belief and help to perpetuate the behavior. These people could have been helped as children by learning that thoughts aren't synonymous with actions and there are positive outlets available for the thoughts that bother them. Maybe we should be teaching meditation in school alongside economics?

    Taking drugs is most often a form of escape from a situation where people feel powerless. This applies to peer pressure as well, many aren't confident enough to stand up to others and say no, I don't want to try that drug. If we could give these people the means/education necessary to help them fulfill their dreams then the drugs would not be an issue most of the time.

    There are no absolute fixes for these problems, but we are learning as a society how to deal with them better. One issue we face is with the speed of these changes, of course we want to see them happen within our lifetime. When we get impatient and try to force the changes they take even longer to occur. The only thing to do is be part of the change yourself and it will happen, you can be sure of that.
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    Aug 2 2012: Parents should start by leading by example. Children learn a lot by observing their parents and the relationship between them.
    It is also important for the children to know that their parents think of them as special. This requires sacrifice, but money and career should not be allowed to drown care and concern for the children.
    Then parents should build the confidence and self-esteem of their children by words of love and admiration.
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    Aug 2 2012: Parents should start by leading by example. Children learn a lot by observing their parents and the relationship between them.
    It is also important for the children to know that their parents think of them as special. This requires sacrifice, but money and career should not be allowed to drown care and concern for the children.
    Then parents should build the confidence and self-esteem of their children by words of love and admiration.
  • Aug 2 2012: Parents must first find self acceptance for all of who they are, negative and positive, resolve judgments they make against themselves and give emotional movement to the feeling which come up in the process of self discovery. The child will learn by example and instruction the process of step by step accepting oneself by coming our of self loathing and into self acceptance.

    The child reflects to the parents their own self denial. Using as the child as a reflection of what they do not see in themselves will stop the blame game as they assume responsibility for what they see reflected to them in the child.
  • Jul 31 2012: As for the question, I don't think that parents secrecy has anything to do with their children addictions. For personal experience I can tell that good parents (good as in communicative) can also have addicted children. And those parents who actually only whine about their problems, might also cause damaged children.

    I think that you're trying to say that "most people addictions are because they seek perfection, because their parents taught them to be perfect" And I just don't think that's the situation. That might be an excuse thou... The real reasons I would point out is that people are just bored, and when trying to feel better they begin something they can't stop... Or that they have a really damaged life, maybe with terrible parents (not because they don't speak about themselves, but because they are actually TERRIBLE) and they try to get rid of their lives... I can't imagine how can someone begin an addiction only because they feel stressed about seeking perfection, that's actually contradictory... Only steroids and the like, when athletes want to improve, but that might be a whole other discussion

    Nonetheless, parents do have to talk about their problems. Not to avoid addictions, but to help their relationships with their children, and, well, to make this a better society... The only way of improving, is to base our knowledge on our elder's, and if our parents had the same problems as us, they might have some wise words to say...
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    Jul 31 2012: I'll actually take this conversation in a bit of a tangential direction...

    Have you actually worked on your problems, and gotten through them in a healthy manner?

    No? Well then stop cranking out babies you idiot.

    I think the biggest problem we face in modern American society, is that most adults haven't actually risen above drug addiction, alcoholism, obesity, prescription drugs, but they want to have a whole bunch of condom free sex anyway, and then they don't want to get abortions.

    If you're not living a relatively happy and productive life... Then you have absolutely nothing to teach a child, and don't have one. This used to be absolute common sense enforced by a threatening and dangerous environment, now it doesn't even seem to be a polite suggestion.

    If you have actually risen above the problems of your childhood, then, by all means be honest with your child. If you have struggles and problems in your life, but you still overcome them, share that. If you had drug problems, or self image problems, etc... share it... but only if you actually have knowledge to share, only if you actually overcame the big problems.

    If you're still single, or depressed, or jobless, or you need a few beers to fall asleep every night... What the hell are you doing with a child? Who let you have that thing? Did it run away? Well... Don't have another one... and, get your s*** together.
    • Jul 31 2012: But then again, I believe that must parents have those kind of problems and worse... And since they already have children, what to do with them? Chances are that they will grow up just like their parents, or being haters of them... None of those can really lead to something better.
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        Aug 3 2012: To those parents I would quote Joe Rogan

        "This is the beginning of your movie b***es... You ruined your relationship, your kid doesn't like you, you have no job, you're out of shape... Well, isn't that how almost every great movie starts? You are not the choices you have made in the past, this is you today... What are you gonna do about it? How are you gonna get to your happy ending?"

        More importantly to me than what you're honest with children about, is what you teach them through example.
  • Jul 31 2012: Many problems come from a society in which ones status is determined by work and what you are paid, you can't live in a deeply unequal society like america and expect kids not to have problems. It's like trying to deny the biological laws of nature.

    In a capitalist society that means there is always permanent suffering because of lack of freedom and autonomy because of the domestication of human beings by corporations over historical time. i.e. no one is truly independent, modern society is over-specialized and this overspecialization breeds complete lack of freedom over work/life balance. The fact that kids are in school so long is proof of putting too many demands on them and hence you get responses in regards to stress and unrealistic and impossible expectations of the society breeding fear and stress in kids (for their future, lifestyle, etc).

    You have to reject our current economic model if you want to get rid of many pathologies you talk about. Since the vast majority of people's lives is consumed by work for pay that doesn't allow for a life worth living and kids know it.
    • Jul 31 2012: I think that you make some valid points. This seems to look more at the standard schooling that we push onto students. That is a whole other conversation, but I will keep your thoughts in mind.
      Thank you.
  • Jul 31 2012: I agree with Fritzie's post. Children will most likely not understand adult world and the complex history behind struggles. You also don't want a child to take sides.

    I think parents can minimize the chance of their children developing problems later in life by spending enough time with them, not relying on TV and games to babysit their kids, engage their kids in various activities esp. team sports and lead by a good example.

    Through team sports and team activities kids can build good understanding of relationships and build confidence. Confidence is important because it minimizes their need to prove themselves to everyone at school.

    Kids should also not become spoiled with abundance in everything and should learn to both have fun and do little work at home.

    Finally I would expose kids to outdoor activities esp. hiking and camping so they get a different perspective and experience.

    Parents can help kids to build confident and healthy attitude but it requires long term effort and focus.

    cheers
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      Jul 31 2012: I see this philosophy expressed often... and I just have to suggest that... Thinking your children won't understand the adult world, is why they don't want to spend time with you.

      I love how parents always seem to speak double speak nowadays, and it's perfectly "Let's spend more time together, but lets not talk about complex things... Won't that be fun for you?"

      If you want kids to stop watching TV, and spending all their time on the internet, don't you think it's important to compete for their time by being a competent conversationalist, who is explaining new things to them? If your parents don't trust you to understand the adult world... then who will?

      Adults are constantly, intentionally hiding things from children, and they wonder why children don't trust or respect them... It boggles my mind.
      • Aug 1 2012: David, good to see you here.

        I am sorry if I wasn't clear enough in my post. When talking about adult life I was thinking in terms of quarrel between husband and wife. Many times marital conflict involves complex history, feelings, views and characters. If a child is 6 years old you probably do want to insulate them from all of that and make them feel they live in a happy family. Adults also say silly things they don't mean seriously. Young children do not know how serious a fight is and they take it too seriously and can get depressed.

        I agree with you that adults should have as advanced conversation as possible with their children, depending on child's age. Again, because children should experience happy childhood, topics like murders, psychopaths, torturing, accidents, wars, politics and so on should be limited for the young ones until they can better cope with the information.

        I think the best approach is to let kids learn gradually about the world.
  • Jul 31 2012: An early explorer in what became known as America, came to a fast-moving creek in a densely wooded area. Scanning to find a way across, he spotted another watching him from across the stream. They stared at each other for a while but curiosity got the best of both and they decided to explore further, ultimately to meet. Neither knew what to think, what to do, how to behave or respond. Both felt excitement, fear maybe, and wondered if The Other were out to hurt them. What did they do? How did they do it? I believe both must have known in themselves that they could trust themselves not to hurt this explorer or this Native, each being The Other. And so they met and became friends. Then what? The white man destroyed all trust and continues to do so today. "Trust and self-assurance are the very things, we kill, I guess." Don Henley

    And so it appears true. Teach children that instead of what most teach their kids. And what do most teach? Neurosis, their own and make their kids mentally ill like themselves and borderline insane, like their parents. When you teach a child to make certain choices without thought, they cannot make a choice because they are not making their choice. They are making the choice of a mentally ill person who taught them mental illness. And many times this involves a life of struggle revolving around self-sabotage.

    Your topic carries this truth in it, as parents lie to their children about so much and once again, I propose that lying is the main cause of mental illness in the human being that is not of an organic nature.

    However, I must say that sex is not destructive and why do you think it is? It is a natural progression that one must learn about with trust and assurance yet, you, to me, sound like you hold it in a very bad light. I am not proposing anything other than a comment that your belief about sex sounds to me as though it might be a very deviant, abnormal and perverse belief. When I was young, sex was described as being ugly. Why?
    • Jul 31 2012: I meant sex in the context where kids do it because they can. Girls who have not been shown respect feel like they need to "put out" in order to receive love. Kids that find getting pregnant at a young age to be some sort of medal they can flaunt. I didn't mean it in a bad light.
      Sex can be good, if both people are ready for it, are prepared for what it may result in, and feel safe in the situation.
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      Jul 31 2012: "The white man destroyed all trust and continues to do so today" rofl. Yep... Everyone everywhere else in the world, was just a trustworthy kindhearted fella, but then those white folks showed up.

      I know it's popular nonsense to say things like that now... but the indians scalped people... The Mayans cut off heads... and almost every tribe, everywhere in the world was at war with someone when America was "discovered". And... I hate to break it too you... but, nomadic tribes... Yeah, they don't build hospitals... So their life expectancy stays at 40 for well... Ever.

      What settlers did to the indians was horrible, in the exact same way that almost every human interaction on the planet at that time was violent and horrible... As for sex... I'll get into that in my reply above : )
  • Jul 30 2012: Not just the parents, though thy play the major role, but if all opened them self to children things would change dramatically.
    Oh, I'm almost a neighbor of yours, live in Big Rapids.
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    Jul 30 2012: You raise a vaild point, James. Some parents believe the most useful thing they can do for kids is to tell their own stories and provide advice on every matter the child or youth confronts.. Listening to the child's story and recognizing that it will not necessarily conform to ones own story is vital as well.
  • Jul 30 2012: I am student , ITHINK EVERY KIDS IN THEIR CHILDHOOD, will cope behavior form thier parents, Why did you ask this question?
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      Jul 30 2012: if every kid in their childhood cope behavior from their parents, then why do we still have these kinds of problems like low self-esteem issues, drugs, violence, etc.? The conclusion is then the parents are at fault.

      The parents aren't the only reason for all these problems, but it's one of the biggest imo.