A mother talks to her son about his used dishes in the sink. A father punishes his daughter for talking back and being disrespectful. A step mother holds her tongue as her stepdaughter swears at her. A step father explains to his wife how she ought to punish her son for not calling when he was out past curfew. Why would these parents in these different situations behave the way they do to their birth children and stepchildren? How do parents learn how to parent their children, let alone someone elses children? In every case, behavior is a direct result of a persons beliefs.

And yet not very many parents know where their thoughts about the way they parent come from. For most parents, the way they parent is a direct result of how they were parented. Most thoughts about parenting are really formed starting at infancy and get solidified by early childhood. These thoughts are so ingrained, and so much a part of a persons make-up, that they are very unconscious and not necessarily easily accessed.

By knowing what your thoughts are about parenting and how those thoughts originated, you get to discover that your thoughts are accurate or not. Children have a magical way of thinking and many times make beliefs about the world that fit their way of thinking, and those thoughts are not necessarily based on correct information. Adults find themselves acting badly to parenting problems in ways they never thought they would, and they are often not aware of what is actually running them underneath their reactions.

ACTION STEP

Work towards identifying your childhood beliefs about parenting by scheduling some unbroken, private time together as a couple. Or, if you dont have a partner or spouse at this time, choose to do this with another single parent to get some collective support and benefit. Determine who will start sharing and who will ask the questions. Be prepared to alternate roles half-way through so that each of you gets the same amount of time to share.

Ask curious questions about each other’s childhood. Discover who the primary parental figures were for each of you. Learn about how each of you was parented and what was effective in your life and what you wished had been otherwise. Dig for the potential beliefs you made about being a parent as a result of how you were parented. Be engaged and interested in what your partner shares with you.