When I’m a parent, I’m never going to do that to my children.” Sounds familiar? Even if we’ve set clear and strong intentions about the things that we don’t want to repeat with our own children, sometimes we revert to those things because they are familiar to us.
Parenting patterns are the deeply ingrained tendencies that we have that we’re unconscious of. It’s the things that we experienced as children that happened so often that we don’t even think about them. We need to break destructive parenting patterns. We need to be the kind of parents that are intentional about the way we raise our kids. Our children deserve parents that don’t unconsciously make choices based on what we experienced as children. But instead, make conscious parenting choices that are aligned with our values. The first step towards breaking parenting patterns is to become aware of them.
I once witnessed a friend of mine get beat up by her father, I was around 7 years old time. The reason for the punishment was that she was not home when her father got back from work—she had broken the rules. I can imagine that she felt utterly humiliated, amongst other things. Now disciplining your child in front of an audience is one way that we shame our kids. Another way is by sharing details of embarrassing stories about our kids to manipulate their behaviour, or intentionally making your child feel bad about themselves instead of dealing with the behaviour.
And then there’s body shaming. Like most of us, I was body shamed as a child. By strangers, friends and even family members. Name-calling a child for being “too dark,” “too fat,” “too skinny,” “having bad teeth,” “too short” is not something that should be happening at home.
Whether in public or private, children who are continually shamed can develop issues with perfection and a fear of failure. In addition to that, it can harm your relationship with your child and their self-esteem.
Here are some examples of shaming words that we should avoid:
- You’re just like your mother/father
- How many times must I tell you the same thing?
- I don’t even know why I bother with you!
- Are you sure you want to eat all of that?
This is actually another form of shaming, but I think it deserves its own paragraph because it’s so common.
We compare our kids on everything from infancy and onwards—their birth weight, sleeping patterns, who reached which milestone first.
My mom would consistently compare us to our cousins, neighbours and even our friends. I guess that was her way to get us to change our behavior and attitude, but it didn’t work. It made me feel inadequate, and it slowly ate away at my confidence. While you may have good intentions, the constant comparison may cause your child to feel unworthy. This includes comparing your child to their siblings.
The truth is that there will always be another child who’s smarter, faster, more well-behaved than yours. Children are different, and we need to celebrate and encourage their differences.
Exposing our kids to toxic behaviour
A lot of us grew up in dysfunctional homes. Whether it was domestic violence, name-calling, loud arguments or other form of toxic behavior. The way couples communicate or treat one another can enhance or diminish a child’s quality of life.
When we exhibit toxic behaviour we send the wrong message about life and love. In addition, it can leave deep scars that we end up carrying with us through life. So be conscious of how you communicate with your partner, especially when your kids are around.
Not allowing our kids to speak up
All human beings want to be seen and heard, including our children. Our children come into this world as free and outspoken beings, so it’s our responsibility to nurture that gift. Encourage them to ask for what they need, ask for their opinions and thoughts. There will come a time later in life when you need your children to speak and think independently amongst their peers. They can only learn how to do this through their relationship with you.
Harsh discipline style
There’s no doubt that discipline and parenting go hand in hand. It’s our role to teach our children the difference between right and wrong, which sometimes requires discipline.
So when it comes to discipline, think clearly about your intentions. Are you trying to teach, or are you trying to inflict pain? Although harsh punishment such as spanking may have instant results, the long-term consequences can be detrimental for your child and your relationship.
Speak to your children in a respectful way
Our kids are our equals, yes, we may be older than them, but they’re human. They deserve the same amount of respect that we demand from them. By respect, I don’t mean that kids should do as they please, but treat them the way you want to be treated. How often are you yelling at your kids? Do you use a sarcastic tone? Talk to your children the way you would like people to talk to you.
Although threatening our kids may yield instant results, it may incite rebellion or resentment and is often the leading cause of conflict in parent-child relationships. The problem with threats is that your children will lose trust in you when you don’t follow through.
Here are some examples that we should avoid:
- I will call the police if you don’t behave
- Stop crying otherwise I’ll give you something to cry about
- Wait until (the other parent) gets home. They will deal with you!
It’s never too late to change your parenting choices. The first step is to acknowledge that we have made mistakes, apologise and commit to making changes. What are some of the parenting patterns that you want to break? Let me know in the comments below.