Unmasking the Pain of The Good Child

The Good Child possesses impressive qualities and selflessness, considered highly desirable traits, particularly for girls. Although admirable, The Good Child hides a dark side, which eventually can lead to an emotional and physical collapse in adulthood.

Part 1: Unmasking the Pain of The Good Child Sanna Carapellotti, M.S., Cht

Society quickly recognizes “The Good Girl” while disregarding “The Good Boy” despite his existence. In this 3-part series, I will use “The Good Child” to include both genders.


The Good Child possesses impressive qualities, abilities, drive, and selflessness, considered highly desirable traits, particularly for girls. Although outwardly admirable, The Good Child hides a dark side, which eventually can lead to emotional and physical collapse in adulthood.

I became attuned to The Good Child when adult clients complained of exhaustion because they believed they must always be perfect, a destructive all-time myth.

Some say society conditions and shapes the good child. However, the home is where The Good Child emerges.

Blame withheld, the child’s worldview and her position in the world depend on the quality and pattern of the caregiver’s responses. Children feel love and care, tension, and pressure in the home.


A fascinating study has shown that preschoolers are affected by conflict in the home.

Researchers measured cortisol levels in a preschool-aged child before and after a disagreement between the parents.

The child played with a toy while her parents were instructed to argue close by. Despite appearing calm with no interruption in her play, the child’s cortisol levels doubled after the argument.

This study highlights the importance of maintaining a reasonably peaceful and harmonious environment, especially when children are present.


Chronic stress creates an adaptable relational stance, such as The Good Child, but not without cost.

Who assumes the role of The Good Child varies depending on factors such as birth order, personality, and the current feel of the home environment.

For instance, let’s consider a scenario where a child has an older sibling who is chronically ill or exhibiting negative behavior or where there is emotional neglect. Alternatively, the child may fail to meet high parental expectations, not because they are incapable but because the parent’s demands are developmentally inappropriate.

The Good Child may

  • Offer comfort,
  • Entertain through singing and dancing,
  • Be exceptionally tidy,
  • Strive for high academic achievement,
  • Tell lies or embellish stories to hide the truth,
  • Insist on a perfect appearance,
  • Experience a worse trauma or
  • Become sick too.

These behaviors may be competitive in nature or pseudo-mature, yet they are an attempt to save the family from addictions, illness, conflict, grief, dying, loss, financial loss, or abuse.

The Good Child senses the family’s distress and pain and seeks to draw attention away from the conflict, intervene, or distract for inclusion and pain relief.

Trying to change the family environment is an impossible, overwhelming task! But because of the child’s strong drive for perfection, she faces constant failure for an outcome she cannot achieve.

If your worth is dependent on your goodness, ask yourself these questions:

Were you the family’s Good Child?

Do you stay quiet or invisible not to upset others?

Are you constantly seeking perfection, setting incredibly high standards for yourself?

Do you try to do everything for anyone?

Do you sacrifice yourself for others by never saying no?

Part 2: Next week, we will explore in greater detail the pain of The Good Child and his or her future.

Part 3: I will present healing solutions.


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