Your competent child #1

I’m reading Your Competent Child by Jesper Juul again; the last time I began to read it, I stopped after almost half of it (not because I thought it was dull or anything, but there were other things that forced me to read them). In the first chapter, Juul writes about the family as power structure, with child rearing being more about to preserve the power structure than for the benefit of the children.

He compares the family to a totalitarian state, where the children are at the complete mercy of their parents. Then he talks about a change, a small revolution which he calls “the democratic parenthesis”, where the family turned into a democracy, with children and adults being seen as peers. According to Juul, both of these are bad. In the former, it was more about forcing the children into submission, forcing them to appear to be well-behaved, whereas in the latter, the fact that the parents can determine what’s best for the child in the long term is neglected since it conflicts with the child’s right to choose.

Juul dissects the core principles of the totalitarian and democratic families. For example, in the totalitarian family, it was considered important for the parents to stand as one: to never reveal in front of the children that they sometimes disagree, but to give the impression that there’s One Right Way. Juul writes that it is important for the child to see that different people have different opinions – and as far as I have understood, this is exactly what the child explores in its obstinate age: in what ways its desires conflicts with other people’s desires.

Speaking of which, my daughter’s desire is for me to end this post.

The above was posted to my personal weblog on November 20, 2002. My name is Peter Lindberg and I am a thirtysomething software developer and dad living in Stockholm, Sweden. Here, you’ll find posts in English and Swedish about whatever happens to interest me for the moment.


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