Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Is Your Past Affecting the Way You Parent?

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How were you parented? According to Timm Glover, a retired Licensed Clinical Pastoral Therapist, one common way people parent out of fear is in their desire to parent differently from their parents. For example, a man whose own father was mostly absent due to an overloaded work schedule might try to compensate by being ultra-available to his kids. A mom who grew up under a stifling disciplinarian might try to make up for that by being “buddy-buddy” with her child.

“My home was a place of violence and fear, a place where we kids walked on egg shells, learning to do whatever necessary to keep peace,” a Chattanooga mom shared with me. “While my relationship with Christ has brought healing to so many of those wounds, I fear that.”
 I will make parenting mistakes similar to those my parents did with me

Unfortunately, a parent’s deepest fears can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. “That happens often,” notes Glover, “and we’re not sure how. It could be that parents don’t use moderation. In not doing a good balancing act of guiding their child, helping her make right choices, they become over-controlling. The child compensates by becoming overly rebellious.” This creates a vicious cycle.

If you think you are approaching parenting from a fear of the past, Glover recommends taking these steps in dealing with it.
  • Own up to your fear. Get it out in the open with your spouse and yourself,” he says. Fears can become overblown when we keep them locked up, growing bigger as we dwell on them. Verbalizing it with your spouse or a friend brings it down to size.
  • Be mindful of what triggers your fear. Think about the things in your life that caused you the greatest emotional traumas. “When our children confront those same ages when we had powerful experiences of shame, loss, or woundedness, our fearfulness can resurface,” says Glover.
  • Talk about it with your child. “It can be helpful to share your story with your child, but you must keep a balanced perspective and keep it age-appropriate,” he cautions.
How were you affected by your parents? What things do you do differently from them? What do you strive to do exactly the same? I'd love to hear your thoughts today!
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