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Wednesday 19 April 2023

Evil Parents


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There are a lot of mentally ill children in our nation today. Why is this the case? M. Scott Peck gives us some insight here,

“Whenever a child is brought for psychiatric treatment, it is customary to refer to her or him as the 'identified patient'. By this term we psychotherapists mean that the parents-—or other identifiers—have labelled the child as a patient — namely, someone who has something wrong and is in need of treatment. The reason we use the term is that we have learned to become sceptical of the validity of this identification process. More often than not, as we proceed with the evaluation of the problem, we discover that the source of the problem lies not in the child but rather in his or her parent family, school, or society. Put most simply, we usually find that the child is not as sick as its parents. Although the parents have identified the child as the one requiring correction, it is usually they, the identifiers, who are themselves most in need of correction. They are the ones who should be the patients.

This was exemplified in the case of Bobby. Although he was seriously depressed and desperately in need of help, the source, the cause of his depression, lay not in him but in his parents' behaviour toward him. Although depressed, there was nothing sick about his depression. Any fifteen-year-old boy would have been depressed in his circumstances. The essential sickness of the situation lay not in his depression but in the family environment to which his depression was a natural enough response.

 To children—even adolescents—their parents are like gods. The way their parents do things seems the way they should be done. Children are seldom able to compare their parents to other parents. They are not able to make realistic assessments of their parents' behaviour. Treated badly by its parents, a child will usually assume that it is bad. If treated as an ugly, stupid second-class citizen, it will grow up with an image of itself as ugly, stupid and second-class. Raised without love, children come to believe themselves unlovable. We may express this as a general law of child development: Whenever there is a major deficit in parental love, the child will, in all likelihood, respond to that deficit by assuming itself to be the cause of the deficit, thereby developing an unrealistically negative self-image.”[i]

Where does Peck identify the source of the illness of our children is coming from? “More often than not, as we proceed with the evaluation of the problem, we discover that the source of the problem lies not in the child but rather in his or her parent family, school, or society.” And especially the parents.

This should serve as a warning to parents, how they treat their children has great psychological and mental health ramifications. Most parents love their children, most of those parents are good parents. But not all parents love their children and not all parents who do love their children raise their children well, they simply might not be capable of healthy and wise living.

Paul says this, “4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4, ESV). This is an important message, but I prefer how the NIV gets this message across, “4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” The NIV puts the emphasis on showing that we should not drive our children too hard, to too high a standard and wear them out. We should not push them too far. We also should not undermine them, or put them down, or discourage them, or frustrate them, or create a poisonous environment for them. We need to give our children every chance to succeed in having a healthy life. 

Children are to obey their parents, but parents should make their burden light, like the Lord does for us.

The sad reality is though that there are evil parents who will use their children to fulfil their own childhood goals, or to be a support in an unrighteous and unfair way, or who will use them as a pawn against their spouse either in marriage or during the divorce, or both, and then there is much worse as well, the truly depraved parents. Such parents do great harm to their children, harm that can take their children a lifetime to get over, if they ever do. Such wicked people will always be among us, unfortunately. They ought not be, but they will be. 

But for those parents who know they are imperfect, but love and honour their children well, we should still heed the words of Peck and the words of Paul. If a child is in need of psychological help it is likely because either the parents, the child’s friends or social environment is causing it. Be aware of this. And be aware that we live in an evil world, the days are evil as Paul says, and this world is filled with forces seeking to do you and yours harm. Be aware of this as well.

Our children are a treasure, and we have them in the home for a short amount of time, make the best of that time. For those who are evil, they should know that though they may hold the power now, they will one day face the omnipotent God.  


[i] M. Scott Peck, 1990, The People of the Lie, Arrow Books.

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