How Children Fail

“Our children will always be failures, but at least they’ll know it’s not their own fault.”

“But later I have thought often of that scene in the psychologist’s office as the child must have experienced it. It is a scene out of nightmare. For many months, perhaps years, he has sensed that his parents were worried about him, even ashamed of him. Finally, in an atmosphere heavy with tension and dread, he is taken to a strange place, where strange people peer at him, ask him peculiar questions, and tell him to do peculiar things. Clearly all these people think there is something wrong with him as well. Finally they tell him to put together a puzzle on which is plainly written that it is intended for threeyear- olds. One way or another, the boy figures this out, and realizes that all these adults, his parents included, don’t think he is even smart enough to do what any three-year-old can do. Faced with this overwhelming vote of no confidence, he breaks down. Why should he not? If none of these people have any confidence in him, how could he have any in himself? And it may well have been clear to him, as his mother’s remarks later made it clear to me, that his parents were in some way relieved that he failed; they could tell themselves (and everyone else) it wasn’t their fault.”

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