The relationships we have with our parents are the first and sometimes the deepest ones that we form. They can have a profound influence on our relationships with others. How we interacted with our parents as a child can set the tone and context for us all in understanding and navigating healthy relationships with our partners, friends, children and indeed communities.
The main way we learn to parent is by watching and learning from our own parents. So when I learned that my grandmother was orphaned at an early age and was farmed out to older relatives, I started to think about my own parent’s style of parenting. Of course, this never crosses your mind until you are elbows deep in nappies and a crying bundle of new human being.
Some people were truly blessed with brilliant parents who modelled how to be patient, who validated the feelings of their children, who handled misbehaviour effectively and appropriately, and who managed their inner critic so that much of the damage of their childhood was not handed on to the next generation.
Unfortunately, a lot of us were not so lucky. We may have had parents who were trying to do their best, but made many mistakes. Parents who never took ownership of being a parent, or who were absent, neglectful, selfish, or even abusive. It always amazes me that these essential skills are taken for granted or are supposed to be handed on by osmosis. How do we learn to parent if we weren’t shown how to do it?
I recently read Philippa Perry’s ‘The book you wish your parents had read’ It made me think about the importance of the language you use with your loved ones and family members. It also alerted me to the generational legacy in parenting: how you were parented underlines how you yourself will parent, with all the triggers and memories that resurface.
There is good news though, even if our parenting was less than ideal, we can choose to learn and practice effective parenting skills, and we can seek good parenting examples and copy them. We can improve. All it takes is the curiosity and commitment to being the best parent we can be.
There’s a lot to learn from good books, media, and experts. After all, people become parenting “experts” and write books, record podcasts and write blogs on the topic because they have learned tools, tips and techniques that work. There are dozens of great parenting books out there, one to fit each of our needs and styles, and the needs of our children. If you don’t have the time or energy to read, then listen to a podcast or an audiobook.
Parenting never really ends; it just changes as our children grow and mature. If we commit to learning along with them, we show them we’re all in this together, and that we may not always have all the answers, but that we do practice what we preach. We let them see some of our failures and struggles and emotions, and they get to witness how we work things out. We model positive behaviour for them, and they learn from our example.
We also listen to and learn from our children; and as we do, they feel important, respected, and loved. By seeing the world through their eyes, our relationships can grow in strength. After all, the very best parents are those who simply learn as they go, and never stop learning from their kids, and from the messy, busy, frustrating and wonderful ‘job’ of being a parent.« Effective Listening The Benefits of Gardening to our Mental Well-being »
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