A recent article in The New York Times debunks the theory that all children are intrinsically good until influenced otherwise. The notion that they are mere products of their environment, and if there is chronic bad behavior, there must be a parent behind it is being challenged. Dr. Richard A Friedman, a professor of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College in Manhattan, states, “for better or worse, parents have limited power to influence their children. They should not be so fast to take all the blame-or credit-for everything that their children become. The fact remains that perfectly decent parents can produce toxic children”.

Interestingly, little has been written about the paradox of good parents with toxic children. Dr. Friedman continues that we “marvel at the resilient child who survives the most toxic parents and home environment and goes on to a life of success. Yet the converse–the notion that some children might be the bad seeds of more or less decent parents–is hard to take”. The reality is that character traits, like all human behavior, have hard-wired and genetic components that cannot be molded entirely by the best environment, let alone the best psychotherapists. Dr. Theodore Shapiro, a child psychiatrist at Weil concurs; “The era of ‘there are no bad children, only bad parents’ is gone.”

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