Parents tell us they are facing information overload when it comes to raising young children—with books, articles, and social media all broadcasting the “right” way to raise young children. But the most influential source of information about parenting is actually pretty simple.
Tuning In, ZERO TO THREE’s national parent survey, found that a key influence on parents was the way they were parented. Whether you’re aiming to raise your children like you were raised, or very differently, your childhood experiences influence your approach to parenting.
Our Past and Our Present
Tuning In found that 90% of parents agreed that the way they were raised had a strong impact on how they parent their own children. However, only 60% parents said what they learned from their parents was useful.
Today’s parents are often making different choices when raising their own children. More than 30% of parents polled said they spank and yell less than their parents did. More than 40% of those surveyed said they are more likely to explain discipline and consequences to their children. Almost 50% of parents said they play and read more with their children than their parents did with them, and generally have more fun as a family.
They learn from your model what relationships are supposed to look like, relationships with your parents, relationships with your siblings, relationships with your spouse… I’m trying to model what good, healthy relationships are supposed to look like so they can also recognize what a good, healthy relationship doesn’t look like.
Carrie in Chicago
Choosing Your Path to Parenting
We all want to be the best parent we can be. When you think about your own childhood, you can sort through which parenting practices you felt were helpful and supportive to you as a child, and which were not. This awareness helps you choose what practices and traditions you want to continue with your own children, and what you want to leave behind. If you are co-parenting, you will also be working with your child’s other parent. This can be a struggle at times. You may find that the two of you approach parenting dilemmas from very different perspectives, based on your own past experiences. Working together and talking through child-rearing challenges as respectful partners is a critical piece of the adjustment to parenthood.
Avoiding Automatic Pilot
As you become a parent, you may find yourself automatically doing some of the same things your parents did. For example, you might use the same sweet nicknames you heard as a child.
This can also include the not-so-sweet—like the criticisms you heard as well: “You’d forget your head if it wasn’t attached!” or “I’ll give you something to cry about!’ Being mindful helps you “catch yourself” when you use negative language or behavior experienced when you were young. Training yourself to take a deep breath or pause during these moments can give you the opportunity to make different choices with your children.
Making Your Own Way
Creating your own roadmap as a parent is a process of discovery for you, your co-parent, and your child. By drawing on the past, you can find way forward that gives your child strong roots and sense of culture and history. By making positive changes, you can build a healthy and nurturing future for your family—one that you want your children to remember, and repeat, with their own children someday.