The Hero or Responsible Child is the first of the learned behaviors of children who grow up with an emotionally absent parent. When one parent is not providing emotional support to the family and the other parent is focused on that absence, the children are often left to fend on their own. Often the oldest, but not always, this child learns to handle life and all its realities regardless of their ago.
There are many scenarios where this happens. This identification started with adult children of alcoholics, and it’s obvious that an alcoholic parent is focused on the booze and not the family. In most families, the alcoholic’s spouse is focused on his/her drinking. How much money is being spent, how much time is being wasted in the bar and the risks of drinking and driving. And usually, all those pretty young things in those damn dirty bars.
Other instances include a home with a mentally ill parent, a workaholic parent (whose partner resents the hours at work), any family with an addiction in one of the parents, or a ‘do-gooder’ parent who volunteers more than she is home and whose partner hates it.
So the children, although they have adults in the home, learn how to cope without much of their parents’ attention. Certainly they learn independence and self-reliance in a way that other children do not.
The Hero or Responsible Child learns that someone has to take charge. While they may not be making decisions (although they may be), they are working to make the family succeed.
These children share a variety of characteristics:
- They succeed – by hard work and diligence, they are good students, hard workers, and/or star athletes . Sometimes they’re all three. Whenever you see a super star teenager, ask yourself if they’re over-compensating for something at home.
- They are overly responsible. They understand about cause and effect and consequences and they make the ‘right’ choices all of the time.
- They’re the shining star of this family. They’re the kid that other parents compare their children to as a role model.
- They usually continue to succeed all through life.
- They are work horses, getting more done than most other groups of people. They’re the ones we talk about when we say “If you want a job done, give it to the busiest person you know.”
- They always follow through, regardless of what is asked for them or what is going on in their life.
- They have trouble having fun, although they don’t know it, because they define many of their activities (volunteer, familial or community) as ‘fun’.
- They take care of others, with or without that person’s permission.
Heroes value themselves for getting things done. They perceive themselves as high energy people who are organized and efficient. Those identifiers are true, but the Hero usually takes on too much an doesn’t understand about down time and relaxing. What else would be expected? This child has always been rewarded (with praise or money) for working so hard and taking charge.
Ironically, this is often the hardest role to break away from, because the rewards become intrinsic to the Hero’s self-identification and self-worth.
The hero becomes used to tackling problems that are beyond their level of maturity or skill set, so it’s no wonder they often end up married to…you guessed it, alcoholics, drug addicts, etc etc. Or they become the workaholic adult who claims he/she is doing all this for the family when in truth, it’s driven from their self-concept and self-image.
Again, don’t start diagnosing anyone in your life – but feel free to do more research if this rings a bell for you.