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The Big Answer

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The Magic Years: Understanding and Handling the Problems of Early Childhood

a book by Selma H. Fraiberg

(our site's book review)

Psychoanalyst Frailberg has written a Freud-based guide to child-rearing that has lots of common sense but makes some of the errors Freud himself made.

Freud was sexist, egocentric, ethnocentric and biased in many areas despite his brilliant work with dreams, the unconscious, the superego, ego defenses, etc. His penis envy theories were a bad idea, and his oedipal theories reflected him personally and his era more than any universals of human nature. That a well-raised child in the late 20th century or early 21st century will have sex-with-mother and kill-father preoccupations, whether conscious or not, is poppycock. It made sense that he experienced such a thing given his relationship with his mother and father and his context of Victorian values, but these days one can expect children to become attached to mothers with mainly emotional ties, not necessarily with any sexual overtones.

The anger and fear resulting from strict authoritarian parenting now or back then can/could easily make a child overly dependent on a mother for protection and wishing a father were gone, but this is self preservation, not oedipal complex.

Freud’s worst error is not believing all the women who reported being molested by fathers and others, which caused many other psychiatrists and psychologists to follow suit, and led to great amounts of helpless and hopeless suffering by countless women over many decades. He was an unknowing accomplice to the traumatizing of thousands of innocents.

Evil baby—who knew 'kids are born evil'?
Evil baby—who knew 'kids are born evil'?

In addition, his negative portrayal of babies and young children as full of negative, perverse, murderous proclivities (original sin) gave fundamentalist radicals fuel for their fires of “humans are born evil and needing to be saved” This "saving" cannot possibly happen (they tell you) unless you either go fill collection plates in the fundamentalist churches or send in money to TV evangelists, of course. The fundamentalists have been exploiting this original-sin-and-the-guilt-that-goes-with-it nonsense for decades, in spite of the work of Maslow, Bowlby, Ainsworth, and others who have since showed that the original nature of man is good, not bad.

She advocates teaching responsibility and avoiding physical punishments, but in general some of her ideas are as out-of-date as Freud’s. See P.E.T. for childraising advice, not Frailberg's book!