Published 16 Jun 2017
On the first hand, the good-enough mother, who gets a deep insight of and reacts to the infant’s unexpected behavior (nonverbal communication, primitive communication), supports fragile ego of her child which represents the power important for adequate self-esteem and confidence. On the second hand, the not good-enough mother, fails to recognize and respond to such expressions. Thus, she subjects the infant to her own demands, needs, and interests. It leads to the situation when the child is has to comply with the mother’s needs and visa versa. Winnicott has named this obedience the “false self”. Thus, the kid is placed in a situation which limits its ability to create symbols. The result is that “the infant remains isolated. But in practice the infant lives, but lives falsely.” (Williamson 15).
Throughout the false self that the child creates an artificial set of human attitudes and relationships. A positive side of the false self is that it conceals the true self’s obedience with environmental needs. Thus conformity and the lack of spontaneous behavior become the essential feature in the child’s living experience. That’s why, the false self can be perceived as a protection against the use of the true self which is believed to result in its total destruction.
According to Winnicott, typical mothers are characterized with holding behavior which is the creation of such an environment of overprotection and maternal preoccupation of which the child is not aware. The sooner the mother gives to her infant more space for moving, acting, and thinking, the sooner the infant will start gaining useful and practical knowledge and learn from experience. In case if such a holding behavior is completely absent, the infant may become traumatized and depressed since his desires are not fulfilled and therefore he feels ignored. (Williamson 31).
While doing some shopping in the downtown I kept observing couples with kids and families who came to the mall to pick up some groceries, clothes, etc. I noticed a couple of different instances that brought me to shocking condition as I have never seen it before.
First couple was looking for some nice couch to buy when their 3-year-old kid decided to try closely located king-size bed. He was holding a toy in his hand, but he dropped it when climbing up the bed. So he started screaming, whining, crying, until someone responded. He got so worked up that he screamed and cried until choking. His mother ran up to him trying to find the toy immediately and give it back to him. When the kid got his toy he played with it for a while and then dropped it again screaming the “I want my car back” over and over again. When this happened for the second time the father of the infant stopped his wife from helping the child and let him scream until he became silent and calm because of tiredness.
This is a vivid example of a holding behavior aimed at protecting the child from any negative external factors. However, when the kid is put face to face with the reality, he fails to cope with even minor problems due to the fact that he was so overly protected in his early childhood. This situation showed typical maternal behavior that was rather logical at the beginning. But after the child dropped the toy for the second time his mother shouldn’t have helped him showing her authority and power and clear awareness that it was done on purpose in order to attract attention of others.
The second example of a holding behavior and as a consequence not good-enough mother was when a child wanted to step into the mini-pool with warm water but his mother prohibited him from doing this in front of many people. I consider such behavior very inadequate since such child need has nothing to do with impoliteness or rudeness. If the child walked a bit in the pool he would disturb no one besides his mother’s consciousness and way of thinking. In fact, this situation will even bring happiness to both the child and the audience (people who were doing shopping at that time).
Parents should point out their goals for their children right in front of them. Not only must they explain what is going on, but they also must congratulate and encourage them in the many small commitment they make to getting to the final destination. (Williamson 91).
The typical mistake that not good-enough mothers make as they learn how to handle disobedient children, is that they concentrate on the purpose itself which can easily distract them. Due to the fact of the long-term nature of children training, a parent’s attention must always be paid to the process itself not to the problems that they are trying to solve.
Another instance that I was facing is that the family was just about to pray before eating their dinner (it was at my friend’s place), but all of a sudden they heard some noise and saw their two small daughters running down the stairs to join the family for the dinner prayer. To my greatest surprise, children were neither punished nor criticized for their behavior since the main goal of their action was positive and very important. None of the parents screamed or shouted at them, none of them said anything about children’s behavior which served as a very good example for good-enough parents.
- Williamson, Michael. Winnicott And His Attitudes. New York: Pocket Books, 1998.