The Good Child

Imagine a brick wall that is fifteen feet tall and stretches for miles and miles, preventing anyone from seeing or reaching what’s on the other side. No, we are not talking about the Berlin Wall. We are talking about what is going on inside the mind of the “good” child, also known as the “Good Child” syndrome. The occurrence of this syndrome can be compared to a wall separating one from his/her true self.


The infamous Berlin Wall. Credit: Thierry Noir

     Before getting down to business, let me introduce our resilient builders. Any person who is deemed superior to the child can contribute to the construction of the wall, for example, strict and abusive family members.

“Parents who raise children to not be “bad” boys and girls erroneously think the way for their child to grow up to be a good person is to prohibit all “bad” ways of feeling, thinking, and acting. They use “bad” people as anti-models and try to raise their children to be the opposite.

“Good” children can also be victims of the “Golden Child” syndrome, which is caused by narcissistic parents who shower their children with praise and attention, thus making their children develop a sense of obligation and submission towards them.


The lacquered, flawless image of the golden child. Credit: The School Of Life

The tools used in the construction of this wall are various types of discipline. Corporal punishment and verbal abuse are among the most popular means to mold children into their “desirable shape” – docile, lovely and extremely well-behaved little lambs.

According to Child Trends Databank, in 2016, 76 percent of men and 66 percent of women ages 18 to 65 agreed that corporal punishment is acceptable.

Children who are considered “good” do not complain, throw tantrums or talk back, but unbeknownst to parents is the fear of being punished imprinted on their children’s innocent minds, gradually turning their obedience into an obligation rather than a choice. Their excessive compliance prohibits them from showing any disapproval or “attitude”. They end up becoming masterful liars to the outside world and even to themselves. Eventually, their self-deception makes them suppress their very own desires and even self-expression.


Blanket the shell of a impeccable child over one’s self. 

Joanne Stern, the author of “Parenting is a contact sport” believes that being too good shows that the child has either been intimidated into conformity or reprimanded into believing one is not worthy of having one’s own ideas. This will be detrimental to the “good” children when they reach adulthood and start their working life. A brilliant idea is always, to some extent, controversial, and not proposing any far-reaching ideas will not get you anywhere in life. As mentioned before, the “good” children will not do anything that might displease other people, even if it means acting against their own will, hence their lack of defiance of authority. The rebellious part stripped off of them at an early age precludes them from standing up against oppression or voicing any “unpopular” opinion.

Being on the horns of this dilemma for too long numb the “good” children. As the wall grows taller and taller, the existence of the aspirations they used to have is now forgotten. Made invisible, and then non-existent. Caged within their self-conscious lies, they are brainwashed into thinking that they should listen to others when it comes to important decisions like choosing schools or careers, to name a few.


So, how can one demolish this dreadful wall? Tearing down this wall is extraordinarily hard, because not everyone can look at their loved ones in the eye and say: “Sorry, but I will have to let you down.” So difficult is it that many would rather choose to live others’ dreams and not their own. But they must do what must be done. Living an actually good life must include being rebellious at times, for life is all about harmony. Being loved is great, but loving yourself first is the most important thing. Children should be allowed to let their egotistical and unruly side to show, and they should be able to develop a sense of selfishness. In other words, their identities should never be stolen from them. It’s time to tear down the wall.