By Rachel Tomlinson
**Trigger Warning ** Before we get into this article please be very aware of your own lived experiences, if they are tender or triggering to revisit, please make sure that you are checking in with your support networks: professionals as well as friends/family.
Like many other skills, we develop our parenting skills from modelling and learning from those around us, primarily our own parents. I often find myself in the middle of a conversation with my daughter and all I can hear is my mother’s voice coming out of my mouth. For me this is amusing, it brings a little giggle because I notice first hand how similar we are in our parenting styles, and this is because I learnt about parenting from her, how I navigate conflict and communication with my child, the boundaries I hold, the rules I set, and how I meet my child’s needs.
But recognising a parenting trait coming out in our own actions is not comfortable for everybody, and can be incredibly distressing for those whose childhoods weren’t ideal, and not only were they “not ideal” but many individuals experienced trauma, distress and negative life events.
These circumstances shaped their childhood and their understanding of what it means to be parented, and also what it takes to be a parent.
So, when the time comes to be a parent themselves it can be a stressful and distressing time as they have to navigate, re-learn and re-parent in order to break patterns in the way they want to raise their children.
Be Gentle with Yourself if you Make Mistakes
There can be so much pressure, mostly from the person themselves to parent in a radically different way than they were raised, or to ensure that their children aren’t exposed to the same adverse experiences as themselves. However, we are human, and entirely fallible, we make mistakes and it’s OK.
If you find yourself parenting in a way that doesn’t fit your values, morals or expectations, the simple fact that you have noticed this means you are doing an amazing job.
Awareness is key in making lasting changes. So, if you do notice some behaviours creep into your parenting repertoire that make you uncomfortable, cut yourself some slack and work on progressing back towards your parenting ideals.
If it takes time, that’s OK too. Changing a lifetime of patterns and behaviours is not always the quickest or smoothest of paths! And regardless of whether you had a tough childhood or your family resembled the Brady Bunch, you will still make mistakes. I promise you we all make them because parenting is tough and none of us are perfect. So, be gentle with yourself when you do. Recognise the issue, apologise if necessary (to others or yourself) and try to move past that particular issue with compassion and self-kindness.