Parenting Like Your Parents?

Question: I had a lot of difficulties with my parents when I was growing up and never wanted to be that kind of parent. So why do I now find myself parenting like they did?

MOM: The reason is because that’s all you really know.

MOLLY: Even though consciously you know you really didn’t like it?

MOM: Right, but you’re confused in a sense and don’t know what to do because this is what you know. Mostly, people do what their parents did with them on a very unconscious level, because they don’t know any other way.

If you didn’t like the way your parents parented, or you don’t want to parent like they did or be the kind of parent they were, then you have to stay very conscious of it.

You can intervene consciously with yourself. For instance, when your kid is having a tantrum. Let’s say your mother locked you in your room when you had a tantrum and punished you that way.  Perhaps you feel like that wasn’t a really helpful approach to the situation but you’ve noticed that you’ve started doing the same thing with your own children. If you want to do things differently, you have to be quite conscious of this… and conscious of finding out how to do it differently.

There are a couple ways to do this. If you find yourself feeling really tense about it all, you might want to get some counseling about it. Otherwise, you can get on the internet and look up all kinds of information. There’s a wealth of information out there about better or alternative ways of handling certain kinds of problems that will be different than the ways your parents handled them.  And, of course, you can get help from our Blog. But without conscious intervention, no doubt you will pretty much be the type of parent that your parents were.

MOLLY: I know everyone has those times that they think, “I sound just like my Mom,” or “I hear my father in what I just said,” and they don’t want to sound like that or act that way, but that’s just what comes out.

MOM: The problem probably is that they don’t know how else to deal with it.

MOLLY: So you have to find an alternative?

MOM: Exactly. Look for advice you respect or model yourself after good parents you know. Really, too, that is why you and I are writing this blog: because perhaps we can offer different kinds of ideas to help people be better parents.

MOLLY: I find it really hard to read a lot of parenting books – who has time when you’re a parent, especially of young kids? But I think the blogs, online sites and forums do help when I’m looking for answers about parenting questions.

MOM: And, as you mentioned, getting into some playgroups with parents of other kids the same ages as yours. If you’re a working parent, you can do these on the weekends or in the evenings. Then you get to see how other children behave, and how other people parent, too. You get a better sense of what’s real and reasonable as compared to what  your reality was when you were a kid.

MOLLY: What if it’s your spouse who is parenting just like his parents did, and you don’t agree?

MOM: Then you have to have a discussion with your spouse, but not when he or she is upset. You have to have the conversation after the incident has settled. You can say something like, “You know, I really want to talk to you about how we could handle this situation with our child. Let’s talk about it later when we’re both calm.” And better to say “ when we’re both calm” rather than when “you’re calm” because that can really trigger people off. You never try to change something in the midst of high emotion.

MOLLY: Which is right when you want to change it!

MOM: You may feel so strongly that you want to change it, but it won’t work. So let’s focus on doing things that will work!

Experience this? Comment below if you’ve had success with changing the way you parent to be different than the way you were raised. Or Contact US if you have other parenting questions you’d like to see addressed.