Don’t Let Your Past Be An Obstacle To Your Parenting Today
Parenting In A Brave New World
In 2004, we moved to the great unknown of Boise, Idaho, the week of spring break. Our daughter was only in first grade. Wow, that seems like both yesterday and a million years ago, at the same time.
It was an exciting and intimidating time. My husband went off to work that following Monday, where he had been working for the past 7 weeks, while I drove my daughter to her first day of school. She settled into the desk in her new classroom. So, I slowly dragged my feet out the door. Boy, what a lonely feeling.
There was a lot of work for me to do. I needed to find stores, banks, doctors, dentists, a CPA, etc., etc. And my goodness, I needed some gal pals. There was only one thing to do: start meeting other moms. Being an introvert, that wasn’t an easy thing for me to do. Luckily, during the early grade-school years there are many opportunities to bump into other parents. I also met some new moms at a church we started attending.
3 Parenting Obstacles
During these early years in Boise, I observed something I had not consciously been aware of before. Moms unwittingly allow their past to become an obstacle to their parenting.
I first noticed this while picking up my daughter from a classmate’s birthday party. I overheard a frustrated mom proclaim, “How can I possibly hold my kids accountable when I am guilty of behaving that way when I was a kid? I have no right. I’d be a hypocrite.” This was a declaration that her past impeded her parenting.
The second time was when I was attending a moms’ Bible study. I listened to moms share how they felt like failures because of their past parenting choices. They felt like they had already set in stone how things were done in their family.
Finally, I observed something that parents rarely talk about, but need to. We are all given obstacles we don’t even know we have, from our own parents. Not on purpose. It just happens. None of us grew up in perfect families and neither did our parents. Parents pass on whatever skills they learned onto their kids. Whatever you grew up with, that was your normal. No matter how healthy or dysfunctional the situation, the parenting methods you unconsciously use are the parenting skills you were given.
The Parenting Tool Belt
It’s not until you start sharing personal stories with other adults, friends, parents, a parenting coach or with a counselor that a lightbulb goes on. Not everyone did family life like your family did. Some families are healthier than others, but none of them are perfect. That’s when you realize that your parenting skills “tool belt” has another hook, loop, or pocket that needs to be filled.
What Are Your Parenting Obstacles?
What part of your past is getting in the way of you feeling empowered as a parent today? Have you adopted the notion that because of your choices as a kid, it would be hypocritical to require better behavior from your kid? Are you permitting your past decisions as a parent to dictate how you parent today? Or do you simply feel like you need some new tools?
Whatever the case may be, hear this:
Peace be with you. You can change it. Today is a new day!
Hypocritical Parenting? No Way.
Holding your kids accountable for things that you blew off while growing up is not being hypocritical. It is being responsible.
You now understand on a deeper level why you shouldn’t have done whatever it was that you did. You are no longer that kid. Stop beating yourself up for making childish decisions as a child. That’s what childhood is all about, learning to become a grown up. Instead, make use of what you have learned and turn it into a teachable moment for your kids.
Changing The Rules
It is never too late to change things up. If you didn’t like how you parented in a past situation, that’s okay. Now you know. Figure out how you would like to handle it in the future. You are the parent. You are in charge. You make the rules.
Filling Your Tool Belt
It is never too late to learn a new parenting skill. Frankly, our relationships with our children continue to evolve as they mature from babies to adulthood. As they grow into adults, we need to continue to grow as their parents. This requires gathering new tools for our parenting “tool belt.”
3 Empowering Steps To Overcome Your Obstacles
Use your past to give you powerful insights to your present.
- Reflect on what is holding you back. Do this through journaling about:
- Childhood choices you made that you may feel ashamed about. Remember that you were just a child. Have the adult-you set the child-in-you free from shame.
- Parenting decisions you wish you could have a do-over. No worries! Figure out how you would like to address things in the future.
- Parenting tools you would like to have.
- Visualize the relationship you want to have with your kids. Picture how you would like to discipline and communicate with your kids in the future.
- Grow by getting help filling your “Parenting Tool Belt.” Talk with friends, teachers, pastors, youth pastors, parents, parenting coaches, and counselors. Consider joining local moms’ groups or Facebook groups. Read age-related parenting books. Learn about online programs created just for you.
Reflect. Visualize. Grow.
Don’t let your past become an obstacle to your parenting. Instead, use it as the cornerstone for a strong parenting foundation. You’ve got this!
Add to the conversation below. We’ll be glad you did. [NOTE: this blog first appeared in CLM, May/June 2017]