Updated: Aug 26, 2021
As a parent, in times of stress, we are especially vulnerable in acting on the basis of our unresolved past issues. How we are raised and the experiences we have during childhood have a tremendous effect on our behavior in our adult years. It dictates how we respond to confrontation, how we behave in a large social setting to even our work ethic!
Some of us have had parents who weren't very emotionally expressive or never apologized when they were wrong. Some of us had parents who supported us through everything and are often a phone call away. Some of us have lost our parents early on and grieve their absence in our present lives. We think about ourselves in their shoes, we may wonder or even swear how differently we would raise our own children. How we may shelter them from life's unpleasantries as much as possible. Some of us think of our parent's strict ways and repeat the same methods because hey! I turned out okay, I always had good grades and now I have a great job. One day my children will thank me because this is what is needed for them to be as successful as me.
A comforting fact is that there is no textbook for parenting. There is not one manuscript in the world that can give you a step-by-step guide to raising children that will be intelligent, and guaranteed to be free of all the trappings of life. However, one does not need to be the perfect mother or father, but everyone can be a good parent for their child. It all starts by being aware of how your past influences the way you parent. As you know by now, parenting is no easy feat, and all parents have faced feelings of inadequacy or guilt. Just know that you are not alone and you most certainly have not failed as a parent.
Here is how thinking about your own childhood experiences can help you become aware of how you react to your own child:
What were some of the messages you received as a child? (About your intelligence, ability, importance, value?) Do you repeat the things your parent say?
What has been the biggest influence on your parenting?
In what ways do you feel your parents had a positive impact on you—that you would like to do with your own child?
Was there anything about your parents’ approach to raising you that you don’t want to recreate with your child?
Are there any significant events or experiences in your childhood that had an impact on you and that now may be influencing your parenting? For example, the loss of a loved one, parental separation or divorce, significant tension between parents, financial insecurity, parental mental health issues, or parental substance abuse.
Reflecting on these questions can bring up strong feelings. Discuss them with your partner or someone you trust.