Thoughtful Parenting: Jack and Jill |

Thoughtful Parenting: Jack and Jill

Chris Young/For Steamboat Today

"Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down and broke his crown, and Jill came tumbling after."*

Jack and Jill were pursuing the same goal, which they never achieved. What happened?

The following stories are about a fictional Jack and Jill, based upon a mixture of many people's stories.

Jack was raised in an upwardly mobile family, with a traditional father and mother: Dad worked outside the home, and Mom stayed at home, sort of. She was involved with volunteer organizations and out of the house three days a week. Jack was taken care of by a "cleaning woman" or his grandmother when Mom was gone.

After Jack was born, Mom had two miscarriages and then two more children. Dad was not a part of the children's lives. By the time Jack reached eighth grade, he had a history of conduct problems in school, in Scouts, in Sunday School and at home.

Punishments were heaped upon punishments, until, during eighth grade, Jack was suspended from school for misbehaving. He was bored in the classroom and sought excitement wherever it could be found. Ironically, the behavior for which he was suspended had not involved him at all but did involve other kids in his class.

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Jill never knew her father. When she was an infant, she was cared for by her mother's mother who lived nearby. Her mother began using and abusing drugs and alcohol. She had a four-year, live-in relationship with a man. Jill was struggling in school, both academically and behaviorally. Jill's misbehavior became too difficult for her grandmother to handle, so Jill was sent to live with a relative in another state.

In her new home, Jill continued to misbehave, both at home and at school. Jill was returned to her mother's care by her frustrated relative. Her mother had found a job and was working part-time. When she was in eighth grade, failing all her classes, Jill was suspended from school for assaulting another girl.

Some of the important details of Jack and Jill's early lives are quite similar. Neither Jack's nor Jill's mothers was able to form a healthy attachment to her baby. Their interests lay elsewhere.

Without the nurturing, empathy, mirroring and positive involvement with at least one primary caregiver that children need from birth, Jack and Jill "acted out" their basic anger at the world. Acted out is in quotation marks because it means that each child was telling anyone who noticed that his or her psychological needs were not getting met.

What really made a difference for these two children was that Jack excelled in school; on the other hand, due to the chaos of her upbringing and her misbehavior, Jill never had her educational needs met. As she failed or almost failed every subject, she felt worse and worse about herself and hated school.

A child who doesn't feel valued in his or her own home can get a little sense of self-worth from succeeding in some arena (think Demaryius Thomas), or by being attended to by a caring adult (think Routt County Partners, Sk8 Church). In order for a child to develop an essential sense of self-worth, and behavioral and emotional regulation, a healthy, nurturing, accepting and loving relationship with at least one caring adult must be present both early and later in the child's life. Had that been true for Jack and Jill their stories would have been much different.


Chris Young, PPD, is a licensed psychologist in private practice specializing in children and families. For more information, check out her website at and she can be reached at 970-879-3032.