I sound just like my mother. How often have you thought that classic phrase…either shuddering because it’s something that appalls you or smiling because it’s something that you loved. We all do that; moms and dads. Especially when your first child is born and the whole experience is frighteningly new. It’s an instinctive jump – one that is actually very primitive because until we examine how we were raised, we can’t possibly be independent thinkers for the next generation.
There is a wonderful phrase that says, repeat or repair. Basically that means we either repeat the behavior that has been modeled for us before, or we set about and we seek to repair (or change) those things that made us uncomfortable. As I was growing up, my parents were very firm about school work first, no television, and monitoring things that I did. Their approval was tantamount to my behavior. When my son was born, I vowed to let him watch as much television as he wanted, to eat whatever food he wanted, and to give him more personal freedom than I had as a child. Pretty soon that approach backfired too, because that was just a reaction, not a repair. So I went back to the drawing board and over time, extrapolated those wonderful things that my parents were able to give me, those that were not comfortable for myself, and marry those with my husband’s confidence in child rearing (this was my husband’s third child, my first). As I began to create my own parenting style, I began to repair my relationship with my parents as well.
We are not born knowing how to be parents. It is truly a learned skill based on trial and error and a lot of thought. Really, there are many factors: your upbringing, your partner’s upbringing, and the temperament of your child. All of those need to be considered in a thought out manner so that you are creating your own sense of parenting without instinctively just modeling after that which came before.
The first step may be to sit down with your partner and each of you draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper. On one side, write the things that worked for you growing up with your parents, and on the other side the things that didn’t work. Can you and your partner identify some very basic assets of a parenting style and agree that out of the two old styles, you will create a new?