Disillusionment with one’s parents, however good and adequate they may be both as parents and as individuals, is to some degree inevitable. Most children have a very high ideal of their parents that can hardly stand up to realistic evaluation unless the parents  themselves have been unsatisfactory.

Parents would be greatly surprised and deeply touched if they realised how much belief their children usually have in their character and infallibility, and how much this faith means to a child. If parents were prepared for this adolescent reaction, and realised that it was a sign that the child was growing up  and developing valuable powers of observation and independent judgement, they would not be very hurt, so they would not drive the child into opposition by resenting and resisting it.

Parental Authority


The adolescent, with his passion for sincerity, always respects a parent who admits that he is wrong, or ignorant, or even that he has 15 been unfair or unjust. What the child cannot forgive is the parents’ refusal to admit these charges if the child knows them to be true. Victorian parents believed that they kept their dignity by retreating behind an unreasoning authoritarian attitude; in fact, they did nothing of the kind, but children were then too cowed to let them know how 20 they really felt. Today, we tend to go to the other extreme, but, on the whole, this is a healthier attitude both for the child and the parent. It is always wiser and safer to face up to reality, however painful it may be at the moment.


A. What do the following refer to?
1. ‘their’ (line 6):
2. ‘this faith’ (line 8):
3. ‘it’ (line 12):
4. ‘these charges’ (line 16):
5. ‘the other extreme’ (line 20): B.
1. What would be the two results if parents were prepared for the adolescent reaction of their children?
a) b)

2. What kind of a parent does the adolescent respect?

3. Why did Victorian parents believe that they could keep their dignity by retreating behind authority?

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