You may not realise this fact, it is a scary thought, but did you know… You Parent as You Were Parented!


You may not realise this fact, it is a scary thought, but did you know… You Parent as You Were Parented! 


Oh, my goodness, do I really parent as I was parented?  What a really, really scary thought!   The trust is You will tend to parent as you were parented.  Now scream and get it out.  That’s right, and a little more screaming, and that should do it.  Yes, what you received is generally speaking, what you have to give.  And give it you will.  Make sense? You can’t be serious!!!  Well, how else does really good parenting get passed on through the generations and ditto with bad parenting which also dominates in some families. 


Harry Chapin sang in Cats in the Cradle, … my boy is just like me   

Harry, by singing this reflected on his own parenting and by the example he himself set.  He was reaping what he sowed!  The son on the other hand was parenting the way his father parented him.  


This also explains why so many people wake up in their 20s and 30s saying to their own dis-belief:  

  • “I have become my mom!” “I have become my dad!”  
  • “I swore I would never do to my kids what was done to me, but now I hear myself say things and see myself do things that I never thought I’d see or hear.  What’s going on?   
  • I don’t understand why I act as I do or get so irritated!” 


How you make sense of your experiences during childhood have a profound effect on how you parent your own children.  We can easily explain this in NLP and Neuro-Semantics.  Here’s the explanation. 


We are all born with a profoundly under-developed brain — one with great potentials — but also one with no content understanding.  So, it develops.  And it develops in the context of our early home environment. Your own lived experience.   That’s why early experiences are so impactful.  Like any “first impression,” your first impressions about human life, love, and liberty come from your experiences with your caregivers — mum and dad.  In other words: 

  • how they related to you,  
  • interacted with you,  
  • nurtured you,  
  • cared for you,  
  • communicated with you; and  
  • treated you, etc.  

was the first context in which you learned what you learned, experienced what you experienced, and created a dialogue of meaning around all of that.  So what it meant for the now context and content formed you. 


So. How was it for you?  Studies in Attachment Theory in the past three decades have established some basic attachment patterns that are typical by parents.  After the categorizing of these patterns, research has traced the effect of these attachment patterns in people’s lives.  As a result, we now understand that the patterns of attachment profoundly influence a person’s well-being, mental health, social intelligence, memory, resilience, learning capacity, and much more.  I hear a question on the horizon…. What are the categories you ask?   

  • Secure attachment.  A bonding pattern of love and support, parents giving compassion, patience, time, etc.  Parents able to “read” the infant’s signals and respond empathetically.  These children will show some distress when their caregiver leaves but are able to compose themselves knowing that their caregiver will ultimately return. Children with secure attachment feel protected by their caregivers, and they know that they can depend on them to return. 


  • Avoidant attachment.  A non-bonding pattern.  Parents essentially not available emotionally or mentally, preoccupied, busy, stressed-out, etc.  These parents typically disregard or ignore their children’s needs and can be especially rejecting when their child is hurt or sick. 
  • Ambivalent attachment.  An on-and-off bonding pattern.  Parents sometimes available, sometimes not.  Sometimes highly intrusive, sometimes completely dis-connected. In this type of attachment, the child is generally reacting to unpredictable home life. That means they are never certain what type of reaction they will get from their parent or caregiver and therefore attempt to control the situation as best they can. Because they never know what to expect, the child will also never understand how they should act when they are introduced to the caregiver again. This type of child, during their younger years, will generally exhibit very little interest in exploring and will generally be very uncertain of strangers even if their parent is nearby. When the parent leaves, they tend to exhibit distress. However, when the parent returns, they are generally ambivalent toward them and ignore them. 
  • Anxious-avoidant attachment. Individuals with a fearful avoidant attachment style have characteristics of both anxious and avoidant individuals. Bartholomew and Horowitz write that they tend to have negative views of both themselves and others, feel unworthy of support, and anticipate that others will not support them. 


  • Disorganized attachment.  A dis-orienting non-bonding pattern.  Parents themselves unstable and therefore frightening to the child. These parents struggle to maintain ordinary relationships. A child who experiences this type of attachment often won’t learn healthy ways to self-soothe. 


These categories are in Daniel Siegel’s work, The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are (1999/ 2008) which he took from the original work of John Bowlby, a British psychoanalyst and psychiatrist.  Later he wrote a simpler book, Parenting From the Inside-Out (2004).  And at the heart of that work is his point about meaning.  If you are unable to “make sense” of the experiences of your childhood and have leftover issues or unresolved issues, then there are things that can (and will) get in your way of parenting. 


Translation: You have got to get yourself healthy and present in order to do a good job parenting.  Otherwise all sorts of things in children (their dependence, neediness, vulnerability, exploration, incessant questioning, complaining, crying, etc.) can and will trigger you to respond in an automatic learned way. 

“When we become parents, we bring with us issues form our own past that influence the way we parent our children.  Experiences that are not fully processed may create unresolved and leftover issues that influence how we react to our children.” (2004, p. 1) 


Talk about a great big motivation for selling Parenting #101 Training!  That’s it.  Due to our infant brain at birth and our childhood brain as we grow up— we make sense of things the best we can with a child’s brain from the experiences that we have.  That’s why highly stressful experiences, and worse, traumatic experiences, for a child have such a profound effect.  But that’s not all.  There’s something even worse.  Because the child’s brain is just developing, all “memory” in the first two years is “implicit memory.”  No wonder the child will not remember it and will not remember how she encoded it.  This will also be generally true for the first 5 to 7 years of life. 


What the child will have is an implicit non-conscious mental map deep within, of “how life is,” “how he/she is,” “what people are like,” etc.  And because it is non-conscious, it will operate as an automatic program making that child, when he/she grows up, reactionary as an adult.  It is in this way that the cognitive distortions are still so much alive and deep down inside the mind of the new parent and ready to be activated by the annoying things kids do.  No wonder that adult who can seem so mature and grown up in so many aspects of life, can be unbelievably triggered to behave so badly at home. 


WOW! Did I really go through that?  No wonder I re-act and do the things I do. I was pre-programed that way.  Good news is it doesn’t have to be the way you re-act, you can unlearn the re-learn and change it to just act with a fresh rebuild of your encoded established program. 

 by Michael Hall, Ph.D. and Trevor Jolly

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