Our Childhood Affects Our Parenting

August 18th, 2010 by Dionna | 14 Comments
Posted in Gentle/Positive Discipline, natural parenting, Respond with Sensitivity

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Have you ever reacted strongly – and automatically – to something your child says or does, only to realize later “that was my mother talking!” We all bring our own childhoods forward into parenting, and your automatic reactions are often based on your parents’ words, playing in your subconscious memory.1

Even if we do not agree with all of our own parents’ strategies or methodologies, they are echoing around our brains, playing like broken records.

Each time your child does or says something, it elicits a reaction from you. Your reaction could range from a casual observation, to praise, to mild annoyance, to anger. Without thinking about it, your reaction puts words into your mind. These are often the words from your past – words of praise that you received (or wished you would have received), words of disappointment, words of punishment.

Notice your words in reaction to your child over the course of several days, and then spend some time in self-reflection. After noticing your automatic responses, start practicing the first step in Naomi Aldort’s S.A.L.V.E. technique: separate yourself from your child’s behavior and emotions with a silent “self-talk.” Let your mind run through what you would have said, and then form a response that you will wish you would have said later. Choose to build your relationship with your child rather than to react automatically and thoughtlessly.

If you find yourself reacting negatively to your child too often, consider talking to a trusted friend, your spouse, or a counselor. There is no shame in reconnecting to your own emotions and background in order to be healthier going forward.

Do you ever hear yourself sounding just like your mother or father? Is that how you want to relate to your child?

How have you quieted your internal parent in order to be more gentle with your own child?

Photo credit: roxinasz

  1. This post stems from something I wrote for Navelgazing on how to deal with “mama guilt” several months ago.

14 Responses to:
"Our Childhood Affects Our Parenting"

  1. kelly @kellynaturally   kellynaturally

    “that was my mother talking…” YES!!! Oh, shamefully yes. :-/ Thank you for this reminder to be more thoughtful before reacting.

    Something that helps me is thinking about what I’d like to hear from them. Because as they are getting older, and better with words, I’ve found many of the things I’ve said to them reflected back at me. Hearing that echo reminds me that I need to be more conscious of not only WHAT I say, but, maybe more importantly, HOW I say it.

    Before I respond, I quickly ask myself – will I really want to hear this back from my child next time they are upset with ME? If the answer is no, I’ll chose different words… or sometimes, just choose not to say anything. Silence really can be golden.

  2. I noticed right away when my first was a baby that my reactions to her so-called “negative” behavior had a lot more to do with my own emotional state than with what she was doing or not doing.

    The first time I read Naomi Aldort I wasn’t sure if I agreed with some of the things she said, but it’s been awhile and I really need to reread it as I can’t remember specifically what bothered me about it.

    Right now, I’m reading a book right now called EveryDay Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting that has similar ideas but for some reason is really clicking better for me. I’m only a few chapters in but I’m planning to post a review when I finish reading it. At this point, I would definitely recommend the book to anyone who likes this post and is looking for more ideas/insight into how to relate to your child.

  3. MomAgain@40   karentoittoit

    I call it going into default mode when I do stuff my parents would have done! Great advice!

  4. Darcel @ The Mahogany Way   mahoganywaymama

    I’m reading that book right now. I also treat my kids the way I wish I had been treated.
    It’s really helpful and healing for me, and my kids are happy.

  5. TNmommie

    This post rings so true for me! I find myself doing things my parents did and resorting to the methods they used because its easier than trying to learn a new way. ITS SO HARD TO CHANGE!!!! I’m fighting my inner demons these days and really working hard to change. I find myself needing a support group so desperately. I need someone to keep me accountable, and unfortunately, I’m dragging DH with me, kicking and screaming, trying to force him to change with me. I have some friends who are natural parents and I find myself calling them more often asking for help and advice. I’m taking baby-steps and not trying to change everything at once…..Its like I need a 12 step program or something! Thanks so much for your posts! I cling to them and re-read them many times!

    • Julie from Simple Life   homemakerjulie

      TNmommie, I so know how you feel! Needing to be accountable to SOMEONE. I have no one local at all, and not really online either, but I found that I just had to be accountable to myself, and my kids. I started watching my sons face when I’d react and he was scared, it was awful to see that look on his face that I had (even if I hid it because that would just get MORE horrible words/reactions from my parents, had to be stoic and strong), and I so did not want him to ever feel like that. But still, it would be so helpful for me to have someone or some place to be accountable for every thing at the end of the day, someone who you knew wasn’t going to judge you. I wonder if there is a support group out there?? :)

  6. Amber   AmberStrocel

    I sound like my mother ALL THE TIME. Sometimes it’s OK, sometimes it’s not so OK. I’m working on being more mindful. And I’m also working on being more gentle with myself when I’m not as mindful as I would hope to be.

  7. This is something that has been really bothering me recently. I’ve been trying to get myself to remove the ‘but’ from my sentences and take responsibility for my behaviour. For example, I am a great mother, but I get really impatient and snappy. To truly take responsibility for my actions, I think I have to remove the ‘but’ – which leaves me with ‘I am an impatient and sarcastic mother’ And that’s not who I want to be, so rather than justify my actions, blame it on my parents (who were easily impatient or sarcastic) I have to take responsibility for that and change what I need to change about me so that my parenting will follow who I want to be. Hope that makes sense. Great post – it made me think about it again.

    • Julie from Simple Life   homemakerjulie

      This is so much better put than what I wrote. I have been doing this too, trying to take responsiblity for my actions/words and changing ME. I can’t change the past or who my parents are/were, but I can change how I interact with my kids. It is SO very hard to change and it takes a huge toll on me, but in the end, my kids will be so much better off than I was/am, and I think I will be better off too.

  8. Julie from Simple Life   homemakerjulie

    For a long time (over three years!) I really thought that I wasn’t doing this. I thought I was ‘stopping the cycle’ as they say. I realized that I totally missed the mark. Words really so powerful. For the last several months I have been struggling with this, realizing that I am using words just like they did, and realizing just how those (awful, very not pleasant things to remember or realize) words have affected me, and trying so very hard to not ever use words in the way they where used on me. It is so difficult, but oh so needed for me to become aware of.

    I have spent a lot of time picking my words better, as well as my reactions, trying to be even keel and not over react. Somedays are great, others not so great, but overall, vastly different than just 4 months ago. Forcing yourself to really listen to the words coming out of your mouth, and to think how they sound, can become second nature, it just takes a LOT of work, both mentally and emotionally. The hardest part for me is not having a place to go to talk about it! I want to blog about it, but I fear my parents will find it somehow, I SO don’t want to deal with that at all!

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      I try to be mindful as well, but since the words usually only rear their heads during stressful moments, those are the times it’s hardest to think rationally.

      And as for writing about it, would your story fit into the “gentle discipline” series I’m starting? I’d be happy to host a guest post – anonymous or not.

      • Julie from Simple Life   homemakerjulie

        That is so true! I have gotten pretty much into the habit of shutting my mouth when I first go to respond and pausing to actually think of what I’m saying and also go give effective options. When I remember, things go MUCH smoother and are more peaceful a home. I’m just glad that their are more good days lately than bad.

        Is the gentle discipline series part of the “Gentle Parenting Ideas”? I do think that my story could fit into a gentle discipline series, since it had always been our desire, and now it’s our focus, since we hadn’t realized we had missed the mark. It’s really about becoming the parent (gentle and respectful) that I/we want to be, along with finding positive ways to deal with our son who can be a handful! I do think it would be helpful to have a place to write about it, and get more ideas and helpful hints. Having people to share this very, very difficult journey with (I had been living in some bubble where my childhood was just a little off, only to realize through some totally rude/mean/judgemental email from my mom about my sister and I’s parenting that things really were not good in our house, and then looking at my own dealings with our son and seeing that I was doing some of the same, not to the extent, but still, a little isn’t cool with me!)

      • Dionna   CodeNameMama

        Julie – here it is: http://codenamemama.com/2010/07/28/call-for-submissions-gentle-parenting/

        Also, I’m going to talk to Tom about setting up a forum. Maybe some like-minded gentle parents could get together to talk specifically about challenges/ideas/successes here!

  9. mama_to_3

    When children have experienced traumatic moments as children we cannot always change them ourselves as adults. I am experiencing this situation myself.

    I am a great mother and I will have faults like being impatient or sarcastic but I will still call myself a great mother. The same way I would not tell my over talkative 5 year old that they talk too much….I might say, “Shhhh. It’s time to be quiet now” but why use negatives on ourselves when we don’t do it with our children.

    As for not being able to change bad behavior on our own…I want to encourage mothers out there who find themselves on a roller coaster ride in their parenting techniques to step back and look at what the real reasons this may be happening. Did you feel abandoned as a child? Was their abuse in your childhood? If you indeed experienced trauma you may not be able to change on your own no matter the effort you put forth and you will question yourself and think you should be able to change because you are a good mother, you love your children and you are strong. Give yourself a break because it’s not your fault.

    If this resonates with you please visit a therapist. Look into EMDR therapy. It’s expensive, all good things usually are. But your family is worth it and you all deserve it.

    Peace. Not Perfection.

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