Think about it. How many times have you said a phrase or reprimanded your kids and thought, “My mom used to say the same thing!” Or done something in such a way that it reminded you of your dad?
It’s because we tend to mimic our greatest influences and in most families, our greatest influences are our parents.
And this can be both good and bad. Because while we pass down positive traits and habits, we can also pass down negative ones.
Influences of Generational Parenting
I grew up in a family that didn’t hug often. My mom was critical, and wasn’t one to hide her disappointment. And as a growing child, it hurt me. I took that negativity and looked inward, always wondering what was wrong with me.
Only now as an adult do I see the connection between how my mom treated me and how she was treated by her mom.
My grandmother was never the emotional type. I don’t remember her ever using the words “I love you.” She demanded perfection and didn’t ever want to appear as anything less. And as part of the family, anything different or less than perfect was looked down on.
And to my grandmother, my mom was different. I know my mom had some awareness of how she was treated. And that she did not like it and did not want to be like her mom.
Unfortunately, passed down traits, the ones we pick up and learn throughout our lives, can be very hard to reprogram.
While I can see some of the differences in the way my mom parented and the way she was parented, I also saw many of the similarities.
And this is something that is very common in people who have been hurt themselves. They go on to do very similar things. Because hurt people tend to hurt other people.
While I’m very aware of how I treat my kids, I may still say something out of frustration. Or I may yell more than I intended to. And of course, there’s always some guilt after and a lot of apologizing and hugs, but I do often wish my initial reaction was different.
How To Break The Pattern
So how can we change this? How can be reprogram ourselves to not repeat the patterns that once hurt us?
It starts with awareness. Awareness of not just the way we parent now, but also of the way were brought up.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What was my childhood experience like? Was it mostly good or bad?
- How has it affected my life today? (This one may take some deeper work. For example, if you often heard children should be seen and not heard, perhaps you still feel the need to keep quiet and not voice your opinions. If someone told you that you were shy, you likely still feel like you are, maybe even using your shyness as an excuse to NOT do things. If you were told you couldn’t accomplish things, you may have a tendency to hold yourself back and not try new things now.)
- Are there any feelings you had as a child that you hope your own children never have to feel?
- Is there anything my parents did that I know I do NOT want to do?
- What kind of parent do I want to be?
This may take some journaling and looking deep into your past. I want to encourage you to think of anything that seems out of the ordinary. Maybe you remember comparing your parents to your friend’s parents. I want you to remember these thoughts and remember those feelings. There must have been something in that instance that made you long for something different.
And this may take some time. Facing our past isn’t always the easiest. And sometimes we are too closed off and emotional disconnected from our experiences to see how not normal they really were.
These questions are meant to bring you to a new awareness. When we’re aware of our own past, we have a much better chance of changing the present and the future.
Here’s the thing about parents and parenting. I do think that our parents did the best they could with what they knew, just as we are doing today. But I also believe that parenting tactics and styles can easily get passed down when we’re not aware of them. Luckily, with a little awareness, we can make conscious decisions to change things.
What are some parenting traits your parents have passed onto you ?