‘Bad’ kids not always the parents’ fault, author says
Some children are more likely than others to have problems
By Tom Holton
Staff writer – Hometown News Friday, March 23, 2007
ORMOND BEACH – Not all children are well behaved, adorable and loving, says Ormond Beach resident and clinical therapist Norman E. Hoffman, Ph.D. in his book, “Bad Children Can Happen to Good Parents.”
Some offspring can be unusually thoughtless, cruel and manipulative, he says.
Others can be charming experts at wheeling, dealing and exploiting their well-intentioned parents without any sense of guilt.
And, many “problem” children are “uncaring,” lacking a sense of remorse for their perceived misconduct and misbehavior, Hoffman writes in the preface to the recently published 157-page paperback.
The author, who has a full-time family therapy practice in Ormond and Daytona Beach, said he wrote the book to present a better understanding of “antisocial” behavior in children.
The term “bad” in the title refers to children with varying degrees of difficult behavior. Throughout the book, the author refers to youngsters with specific behavioral challenges as “uncaring” children.
Hoffman also wastes no time in informing readers he doesn’t buy the popular belief, “There are no bad children, only bad parents.”
“The trend in the United States has been to view children as basically good entities whose behavior is molded from a blueprint drawn by the architects of the family: the parents,” Hoffman writes. “In the past, when a child misbehaved we looked at the parents as the culprits.”
In the book, Hoffman, who earned doctorates in pastoral psychology and human service counseling, provides what he calls a “survival manual for parents with difficult children.”
“We have been taught to think that we are not providing proper care and love, that we lack listening skills and that our actions have possibly damaged or retarded our children’s normal development,” he writes.
Those beliefs often result in parents feeling guilt and a sense of hopelessness in dealing with their unresponsive children, the author says.
The author believes children often feel empowered by their parents’ extensive efforts to help them.
“As long as children hold power positions in the family system, the youngsters maintain control over the atmosphere, directions, goals and plans of the family,” Hoffman said.
A major breakdown occurs when parents are “reduced to pleading for their children to understand their feelings.”
Instead of being sympathetic and caring, the children take advantage of the situation by shifting the blame to their frustrated parents and, at the same time, demand more freedom and control, Hoffman said.
“These children are masters of fixing the blame on parents, siblings, teacher and peers,” he wrote.
Hoffman introduces the readers to the Uncaring Child Syndrome” and “Uncaring Children,” both used interchangeably to characterize children who don’t bond and become “disconnected from their caretakers.”
In Chapter 2, the author provides four profiles of how children project the uncaring child syndrome, including:
*The chameleons: Capable of changing their dispositions and habits; they take on the personalities of others and copy their ideas and ideals.
*The operators: Charming and ingratiating; experts at wheeling, dealing and conning parents and others; well-liked by their peers; relentlessly engage in deceptions for monetary gain.
*The hellbenders: Take unnecessary risks and are accident-prone; accidents waiting to happen.
*The transformers: Start out as the “good children,” but later becomes uncaring and disobedient.
In the first two chapters, readers can get the impression that there’s no hope for their “uncaring child,” but, in the remaining seven chapters, the author guides frustrated parents through a series of helpful processes.
“Bad Children Can Happen to Good Parents,” can be purchased online at Amazon.com.
For further information about the Hoffman Institute, go online at: www.TheHoffmanIntsitute.com
Norman E. Hoffman, Ph.D. of Ormond Beach, author of ‘Bad Children Can Happen to Good Parents,’ is a licensed marriage & family therapist and mental health counselor, as well as an accomplished jazz pianist. His first book, ‘Hear The Music! – A New Approach to Mental Health,’ followed his work at the nationally known Devereux Foundation in 1963, where he specialized as a music therapist for children.