How Does Childhood Influence Parenting?

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Childhood experiences shape many different areas ofour lives. With parenting, it’s your own experience as a child that becomes a major influencer. Those experiences lead to a unconscious choice how we parent - or if you have kids at all.

Often, people adopt their parents' ideas about childrearing or vow to do the opposite because what they experienced in childhood was abusive. Think about what kind of home you grew up in and what you learned back then. Parents are the primary role models for what constitutes healthy - or unhealthy parenting.

Styles of Parenting

Two common parenting styles include the Authoritarian and the Permissive. Some take an authoritarian approach where strict discipline and a desire for control is enforced. This often creates fear and abuse when done to the extreme. Children need a voice and this parenting style tends to give the parents total control.

The second style is permissive where discipline tends to be relaxed and have minimal rules. The flexibility in this style can be positive and give the child a message of trust themselves. On the other hand, this style lacks boundaries which can create a chaotic home life. When children have too much freedom, they can fall into dangerous situations.

Usually people relate to one style in particular. Most parents have difference parenting styles which when utilized effectively, can create a healthy balance of both styles.

Issues that Impact Parenting

Families each have their own set of rules and expectations that greatly impact childhood. Becoming aware of how your family operated can help you understand your parenting today.

This is a list of questions to help you identify important aspects of your childhood and what you may want to change as a result.

In you family growing up:

  • How did your family communicate? Was it okay to express yourself?

  • How was conflict handled? If you had a problem, how was it handled?

  • What happened when you got upset, angry, sad, or happy?

  • If anyone in your family had an addiction or mental illness, how did that impact parenting?

  • How did your parents handle stress or traumatic events?

  • Were there any symptoms of codependency in your family?

  • What feelings, if any, were considered acceptable?

  • Were you physically hit, beaten, put down or called names?

These experiences make a lasting impression on a young child’s development. Use these questions to understand yourself in a deeper way. Increased awareness of the past can promote healing. Try doing some journal writing about what kind of parent you’d like to be now.

Increased Awareness Promotes Healthier Parenting

Understanding ourselves as parents can help us make better choices. When childhood is abusive or unsupportive you might choose the opposite style of parenting that you experienced as a child. Doing the opposite of what was done to you isn’t necessarily healthy, it’s just different. Healthy parenting is usually somewhere in the middle. Each style has strengths when done in moderation.

Parenting is a rewarding, complex, and exhausting job. There are many great resources on parenting that can be helpful like taking a parenting class or getting a book on positive parenting. Understanding the impact of your own childhood is the template for deciding how you want to parent from now on. Children do not come with instructions yet it is one of the most important jobs we have in life. 

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