Monday, July 9, 2012

10 Parenting Principles I Wish I'd Known: Episode Seven

7) You are Not Your Parents

Ok, so we have already went over how your children are not you in my last episode.

Now we are going to discuss how you are not your parents.

And I know what you are going to say:
"But, I know so many people who are JUST like their mom/dad!"
Well, that's great!

My point is: It doesn't have to be.

Take me for example. If I was exactly like my parents, my oldest child would have been taking care of laundry/food/school duties for my second child for at least 2 years now. They would have grown up listening to constant arguing and thought it was "normal" for parents to fight on such a large scale. They would be ignored and have their needs put last instead of first.

Then there is the other side of the coin. I grew up with someone that had spectacular parents. Very involved, very loving. Not in a creepy way, but from the outside looking in, they appeared to be a great family with great parents raising the kids. But, this child grew up and took a completely different path that involved alcohol, drugs, and lots of anger, even after starting his own family.

Now, do you really think we need to blame the parents of that child to grow up to be a man with such issues? Is it really fair to think that their good parenting practices (from what I could see) caused their child to have such poor parenting skills when he started his own family?

Or, to be more to the point, is it fair to think that their good parenting practices would automatically cause him to be a "good" parent?

What about children that grew up in a less than stellar parenting environment? Is it fair to think that the poor parenting skills they observed growing up will automatically be repeated in their own parenting?

I know that this might seem like an awful obvious fact. I mean, it seems obvious that you will not have the exact same parenting skills or experiences as your own parents, especially because you will likely be parenting with someone that went through a childhood with different parents.

But, there is a VERY important reason why I am pointing out this obvious fact.
I know so many parents who worry that their children will turn out to hate their parents, resent them, or just flat out not like them when they are adults.

A lot of this worry is brought about because they are do not feel that they have good relationships with their parents.

I'm not going to sit here and tell you that you will have a great relationship with your children just because you had a great relationship with your own parents. I'm not going to tell you that you are destined to have a bad relationship with your children because you had a bad relationship with your own parents.

You see, I firmly believe that we make our own parenting destiny.

You can choose to do the same things your parents did with you. It may lead to great results if you have children that respond to those things. But, if you are parenting one way just because your parents did it that way and you feel like that is "the way", do not be surprised if you get hit with a curve ball and end up with a child that reponds better to some other tactics. Just because your parents had great results with you and your siblings does not mean you will see the same results by doing the same thing.

Likewise, you can choose to do vastly different things than what your parents did with you. It may lead to much better results, but it could also lead to worse results.

Do not feel entitled to a great parent-child relationship just because you have one with your parents.

Do not feel destined for a crappy parent-child relationship just because you have one with your parents.

Instead, do the best you can, day in and day out.

Follow your heart. If you feel in your heart that something isn't working, change it and find something that you feel will work better.

Take the time to just BE with your child. Not just to be doing activities with them in the background or running them around to various activities. I mean time to actually JUST BE with your child. It is amazing how much the parent-child bond can be strengthened by simply engaging them in activities everyday so that you really connect with them.

Do not listen to the negative reactions or opinions of others, and you WILL find the best way to parent your child and put yourself on the path to a good parent-child relationship that will go all the way to adulthood.

As for me, I do not really speak to either of my parents. One is by my choice. I feel it is better for me to not expose myself or my family to the unhealthy environment and negativity that the relationship would bring given that parent's lifestyle choices. The other is not necessarily by my choice, but my questioning of that parent's motives and actions regarding siblings have led to that parent essentially cutting me off because they are not fond of my view that they could do better if they wanted to.

So no, I do not have a good parent-child relationship with my own parents, let alone a great one.
I am not expert on how to achieve a good parent-child relationship.

But I can tell you that I am doing everything in my power to create a good relationship built on trust, love, and respect because that is the only way I can imagine a good parent-child relationship can be built. In my heart, this is what I feel to be true.

Of course, I could be wrong. But the only way to know this for sure is to check back in 15-20 years and ask my children how their parents did. And it is ok if they feel I could have done better. It is ok if they make different choices for their own children when they become parents. I will not take offense to that because I know that I am making the best choices I can to raise my children with love. I make an effort to show this every day. I hope that they will remember this effort and the love, even when it might not bring about the best results or emotions. And as long as they are parenting their own children with love and good intentions, I am sure they will do great.

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