How our own childhood influences our relationship with our children. The Impact Of Our Childhood Experiences on Parenting.
Often, suddenly we get violent feelings when dealing with our children. We then do not behave like the parents we actually want to be.
Such situations arise when our subconscious mind “surprises us”. It believes there is a threat, intervenes and takes over the steering wheel.
We feel like we are controlled externally
This is not particularly surprising, because over 95 percent of our behavior is regulated subconsciously.
In addition, the subconscious reacts very quickly. It already has a reaction ready before we can even consciously perceive a situation.
This is wonderful because the subconscious works quickly and efficiently.
While conscious thinking consumes 80 percent of our brain’s energy, the subconscious only needs 20 percent of the energy to make the countless decisions that are made automatically.
Without this tireless use of our subconscious, we would not be viable at all.
However, it is uncomfortable in situations in which the subconscious decides differently than we would have liked to have decided with our reflected self.
For example, when we yell at our children on impulse, we often get angry with ourselves afterward.
The emergence of the subconscious
Right from the start, our brain subconsciously stores all of our experiences, perceptions, feelings and stimuli. The years of early childhood have a special impact on us.
During this time, we acquire patterns of thought and behavior that often still have an effect on our adult life without us being aware of it.
As children, we develop an inner concept about ourselves and the world. This is influenced above all by our observation of and interaction with our parents and other close caregivers.
We take everything that our role models seem to believe unfiltered as “reality”.
Action patterns that prove themselves in this time to meet our basic needs are permanently included in our behavioral repertoire.
Which beliefs and behavior strategies we adopt depends on many factors.
We already have certain genetic predispositions – for example with regard to our temperament – that show up in our behavior right from the start.
Our caregivers interpret this against the background of their own experiences, beliefs, dispositions and the respective living conditions.
They then behave accordingly towards us, which in turn shapes our own beliefs and behaviors.
This is ultimately the process that is commonly referred to as “socialization” or “education”.
We often adopt subconscious rules of life from our parents.
They may convey to us that “an Indian knows no pain”, that “life is not a pony farm”, that only those who “work hard” can achieve something, or that good school grades promise a secure future.
We have often stored such frequently repeated pearls of wisdom as truths in our subconscious without questioning them.
We also develop our self-image from the feedback from our environment.
If our parents were often in a good mood in our get-together, looked after us with loving attention.
And showed that they were completely satisfied with us, then we probably still have the positive basic trust within us today so that we, as we are, meet the demands of others can suffice.
Perhaps our family also had a stressed atmosphere. As a child, we kept hearing “you don’t make us anything but trouble” or “you’re not good for anything” until we internalized it ourselves.
Perhaps the belief “I am not valuable” was anchored in us.
These are just two examples to illustrate:
Whatever was conveyed to us about us, we have internalized this in our childhood in our self-concept,
i.e. the idea that we have of ourselves, and still carry these beliefs within us as adults.
Protective behavior strategies
All people strive to meet their basic psychological needs:
attachment, self-esteem enhancement or maintenance, control and gaining pleasure or avoiding pain.
As children, we become frustrated with meeting our needs.
Our closest caregiver is not always available, we do not do everything the way we want it. We feel patronized by the parents and we can not always do what we enjoy.
In order to protect ourselves from the associated unpleasant feelings, we either save ourselves on the side of autonomy,
i.e. independence (often described as defiance in small children), or on the side of the attachment, i.e. emotional dependence.
This can lead to different protection strategies: we start to avoid emotional contacts, we try to be perfect, we adapt to others to an exaggerated degree.
We go into active or passive resistance for fear of inferiority, we withdraw into ourselves.
We take refuge in addiction or we show ourselves narcissistically to cover up our weak self-esteem.
We had to adopt strategies like this as a child to deal with the frustration of our needs.
However, today we are no longer dependent children, so some strategies can prove to be a hindrance to our personal development.
Birth of our child
With the birth of our child, we were given responsibility for a small personality that we will shape, whether we like it or not.
We now meet this child with our own childhood-shaped personality, including all unconsciously branded beliefs and behaviors.
Let’s say we’re reading a book with the latest research on how we should ideally treat our children so that they can develop well.
On this basis, we decide to treat our child in a loving, encouraging manner.
But then we are shocked by ourselves. We are not behaving as we deliberately decided ?! How can that be?
Surprised by the subconscious
For example: Does your child let his emotions run wild in the supermarket with a loud, angry roar because you are withholding the candy bar?
This behavior in turn makes you terribly angry. You have the feeling that you absolutely want to “shut off” your child in order to regain control.
You hiss at him the meanest if-then threats that come to mind, or you quickly put the candy bar in his hand just so that you can finally rest.
You basically know very well that this is a completely normal, age-appropriate behavior in the autonomy phase.
Over time, your child will learn to cope with their frustration.
Therefore, you “actually” want to react empathically and accompany it lovingly in its feelings.
Why is this situation so stressful for you?
Maybe you were taught as a child that you shouldn’t show your feelings, least of all in public.
You may have even trained yourself not to notice negative feelings inside yourself because it was so important to you to meet this requirement of your parents.
And what is your child doing? It confronts you with your subconscious belief.
Your child behaves like a child in the autonomy phase when it gets frustrating.
But before you can even think about how you want to react, your subconscious has already decided on a path – based on your beliefs acquired in childhood and the strategies you have learned.
Break out of old patterns
Fortunately, with a lot of reflection and training, it is possible to break out of unconsciously internalized reaction patterns.
We need to be aware of the beliefs that guide us reflexively in stressful situations when dealing with our children.
If we understand why these beliefs served us in previous situations and at the same time recognize that they do not help us in our current life situation and that they contradict our values.
How we want to deal with our children, we can consciously break away from them.
Instead, it can be helpful to formulate new, positive beliefs and internalize them by repeatedly saying them out loud for at least 30 days.
If you have managed to get rid of the obstructive beliefs, the way is clear and you can study new behaviors that correspond more to your deliberately chosen style of dealing with your child.
You can overcome your beliefs, for example, with self-learning books or you can get support from another person, for example, a coach, who will guide you through the process.
How are your experiences: Do you also know such situations in dealing with your children when your feelings overwhelm you and you react differently than you would like?
- Alfie Kohn, Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason*
- Daniel Siegel, No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind *
- Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting: Raising Children with Courage, Compassion, and Connection*
- Gary Chapman, The 5 Languages of Love for Children *
- Mom Rage: 7 Healthy Ways to Deal With Your Anger
- 7 Mistakes That You Should Definitely Avoid With The Needs-Based Accompaniment of Your Children
- Exhausted Mom: 5 Things You Need to Know
PS: Families are busier than ever. Feeling overwhelmed doesn’t have to be your new normal. This Family Routines Course will help you simplify the many daily tasks confronting you — creating a happier family and a much happier you.