Book Excerpt

Raising Kids With Character: Developing Trust and Personal Integrity In Children

Elizabeth Berger, M.D.

Table of Contents

  1. Why Character Counts

  2. Intimacy from Birth through Parenthood

  3. On the Parent's Good Authority

  4. Building Self-Discipline

  5. From Collapsing to Coping

  6. The Struggle to Be Nice

  7. The Emphasis on People

  8. Citizenship in School

  9. The Floundering Student

  10. The Adolescent's Needs

  11. Fostering Maturity

  12. Male and Female

  13. Romance and Marriage

  14. Toward the Eternal

Read an Excerpt

A toddler is angry, and throws his socks at Mommy.  Because he is little and naďve, he is still unsure of the difference between socks and rocks, and uncertain whether he might injure Mommy by throwing socks, or perhaps drive her away forever. In his anger of the moment, he often does even these things in his thoughts, but soon feels frightened, alone and small. In this mood, a rustling curtain or creaking door is certainly a monster who will devour him, since he deserves it. All children who love their mothers will experience this. 

When the child is feeling angry and hateful toward the parent, he is likely to think the parent feels the same way. In a fit of rage, the small child wants to annihilate everyone who stands in the path of his wishes — a few hours later, at bedtime, the same child is, for some reason, suddenly anxious that someone is out to annihilate him. The fears of monsters, burglars, bogeymen, the bad thing under the bed — the universal fright of being attacked that all children experience — is the fear of the potential for attack that they experience within their love relationships. It is the child’s wish to attack the parent and the child’s imaginative presumption of the parent’s wish to retaliate. The angry child wishes the parent would go away forever; the next moment he fears he will be punished by the unavailability of the precious and loved parent. It is the other side of the coin, the fulfillment of the wish and the punishment for the wish.

This forms the basis of eternal myths, folklore and literature, where the bad witches and evil stepmothers seek to destroy and devour their children, who invariably escape in the end into the arms of the rescuing and loving parent. The witch, the bad things under the bed or in the closet are the aspects of the child’s emotional tie with his parents that he is too little to recognize realistically and manage. The monster is the child’s view of himself when he is being “bad,” and his view of the parent’s reaction to this “badness.” It is also his view of his own reaction to the “bad” part of himself. It is an inner struggle that he cannot yet contain, which has spilled out under the bed and into the closet.

Excerpted from “Raising Kids with Character” by Elizabeth Berger, M.D. Copyright 1999. All rights reserved.

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Copyright © 2001-2006 Elizabeth Berger, MD. All rights reserved.