Perhaps you look back at your childhood with fondness. Or maybe you just scoffed at that last sentence. Regardless of whether your childhood memories give you warm fuzzies or heart palpitations – your childhood lives on in your parenting. Gulp.
As a child therapist, I have a front row seat to the residual power of childhood. Parents sit on my couch year after year talking about how their childhood has impacted their parenting.
They talk about regrets, admiration, and things they vowed to do better.
There are some solid themes in those stories. Which ones are yours?
The themes below are described in broad strokes with a simplicity that doesn’t give the complexities of childhood justice. These descriptions are meant to provide you with just a brief peek into how your childhood could be influencing your parenting. Obviously we all have our own unique experiences.
MY KIDS WILL HAVE IT BETTER THAN ME
Maybe you had a poverty-stricken childhood. You grew up with hand me downs and clothes that never quite fit. You promised yourself your children would never struggle the way you did.
Maybe your mom and dad were missing in action. You were left to fend for yourself and lacked guidance. You promised yourself you would be there for your kids.
Regardless of what you didn’t have – your parenting is driven by filling in those missing gaps and making sure your kids have what you did not.
I WILL NEVER DO THAT TO MY KIDS
Remnants of your childhood still haunt you. Now that you are a parent, you are baffled by some of your parents’ decisions. Your parents were brought up in a different era and maybe their parenting wasn’t up to snuff compared to your parental standards.
Your parenting may consist of what you will not do to your children. You go out of your way to be different than your parents. You might even overcompensate to ensure that there is no semblance of your parents in your parenting.
IF IT WAS GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME, IT IS GOOD ENOUGH FOR THEM
Unlike the themes above, this theme is about embracing the hardship one had in childhood. Maybe things weren’t rosy, but you are who you are because of it. The struggle made you appreciate what you had. The strict rules and harsh discipline kept you out of trouble.
You work hard to emulate the same parenting style with your kids. Even if this is a source of contention with your partner. You didn’t appreciate your childhood when you were living through it, but now you realize what your parents were trying to do.
HELP! MY MOTHER IS COMING OUT OF MY MOUTH
This is a simple case of monkey see, monkey do. As a child you soaked up your childhood experiences. Those memories stayed dormant for years and then boom! It’s as if you are channeling your mom. Things you would NEVER say – are coming out of your mouth. Behaviors you vowed NEVER to do – are happening before you can make them stop.
Unfortunately when you have these automatic responses with your children – it takes awareness and conscious intention to change them. That might take time – and will include slip ups.
MY KIDS WILL PURSUE THE DREAMS I NEVER GOT TO FULFILL
Your parents didn’t support your dreams. Or maybe they did, but you missed your chance. You couldn’t afford it. You didn’t live in the right place. There was someone better than you. Whatever it was – you haven’t been able to let it go.
Your children show the same potential. You are giddy with excitement. Here is another chance. Your children can go far. They can do it. You won’t let them fail. You won’t let them quit. This time your dreams will come true. Only they are your dreams – and not your children’s.
BAD THINGS HAPPENED TO ME – AND I WILL NEVER LET THEM HAPPEN TO MY KIDS
Unfortunately, you experienced trauma in your childhood. Horrible things that no child should ever have to endure. Trauma that has had a lasting impact on your life.
You will do all that you can to ensure it never happens to your child. You scrutinize everyone who comes into contact with your child. You keep your child close and are constantly assessing possible threats. Your parenting is ruled by fear.
PARENTING MOVING FORWARD
Our childhood may impact our parenting style – but it doesn’t have to remain that way. Awareness is key. Knowing how your past influences your parenting is half the battle. Hold on to what you like and make a conscious effort to let go of what you don’t.
You are not your childhood and your parenting doesn’t have to be either.
Did any of these themes sounds familiar? What have you vowed to do differently in your parenting? What things have you kept the same? Share in the comments and let us know.
Do you know people whose parenting is dictated by their childhood? Share this article with them and give them insight into their parenting style.