Understanding our own childhood is not about placing blame on our parents; it is about gaining insight into why we behave the way we do. Our upbringing and early experiences shape us, and by exploring our past, we can uncover the roots of our beliefs, behaviours, and patterns. It is not about holding our parents accountable, but rather recognising the factors that influenced our development.
This self-reflection allows us to approach our present with compassion and empathy, as we come to realise that our actions often stem from a place of understandable origins. Understanding our own childhood is an empowering journey of self-discovery, enabling us to make conscious choices and break free from unhelpful cycles and become the parent we want to be.
Discovering the truth about our childhoods can be eyeopening, and sometimes we realise that certain things we thought were normal growing up were, in fact, far from it.
Do any resonate with you?
1. You weren’t allowed to express emotions.
Let’s look at a few examples:
A child gets reprimanded for crying or showing sadness, being told, “Stop crying! Be strong and tough. There’s no reason to be so sensitive.”
A child tries to express anger or frustration, but their parent interrupts and dismisses them, saying, “Don’t talk back! You have no right to be angry. Show some respect and keep quiet.”
A child expresses excitement or happiness about something they achieved, but their caregiver responds with indifference or downplays their accomplishment, saying, “That’s nothing special. You’re making a big deal out of nothing.”
Growing up in an environment where expressing emotions was seen as weak or unacceptable can leave lasting effects on a person’s ability to communicate and regulate their emotions. Children learn to bottle up their feelings, leading to emotional distress and difficulties in understanding and managing their emotions later in life. They may struggle to express their needs, concerns, or boundaries effectively. This can hinder their ability to form healthy relationships and engage in open and honest communication.
When they have their own kids they might find themselves inclined to detach or withdraw from their own children, using it as a way to shield themselves from the pain of emotional connection.By withdrawing or detaching, they inadvertently convey the message to their children that their emotions are invalid or unimportant, and that they should suppress their own feelings as well. This can lead to difficulties in emotional regulation and communication for the children in their future.
When you recognise that your coping mechanism may not be so helpful, especially in the context of parenting, you can start building emotional connections and fostering open communication that are vital for a healthy parent-child relationship.
2. Having your needs and feeling invalidated.
Let’s look at a few examples:
A child comes home from school upset and shares that they had a disagreement with a friend. Instead of listening and offering support, their parent dismisses their feelings by saying, “Oh, it’s not a big deal. Just forget about it.”
A child expresses their fear of the dark. The parent responds with, “Don’t be silly. There’s nothing to be afraid of. Grow up and stop acting like a baby.”
A child asks their parent for help with their homework because they are struggling. The parent responds impatiently, “You should be able to figure it out on your own. Stop bothering me.”
A child expresses excitement about a new hobby or interest they’ve discovered. Instead of showing interest or encouragement, their sibling mocks them and says, “That’s so stupid. You’re wasting your time.”
When children grow up having their own needs and feelings invalidated, it becomes difficult to acknowledge and manage their emotions effectively. Consequently, offering emotional support to their own children becomes a challenge, as they lack the necessary skills to communicate their emotions and validate their experiences.
Struggling to recognise and address your own emotions can create obstacles when it comes to providing emotional support to your children. Expressing affection, validating their emotions, and establishing a secure attachment may also prove challenging.
To address this issue, it’s important to focus on enhancing your emotional intelligence and self-awareness. This involves learning how to identify and express your own emotions in a healthy manner, while also practicing acknowledging your child’s needs and emotions.
By developing these skills and prioritising emotional connection and validation in your relationship with your children, you can empower them to navigate their own emotional experiences and foster strong, secure attachments with you.
3. Being overly criticised and judged.
Let’s look at a few examples:
A child makes a mistake that costs their team a point. The parent responds angrily, saying, “You’re so useless! Can’t you do anything right? You ruined the whole game!”
A child brings home a report card with mostly good grades, but one subject where they struggled a bit. The parent focuses solely on the low grade, saying, “How could you get such a low mark? I expect better from you. You need to work harder.”
A child is excited to share their achievements or accomplishments with their parent, but no matter what they accomplish, the parent always finds something to criticise or undermine their success, saying, “It’s not that impressive. You could have done better.”
In these examples, the parents consistently criticise and find faults in their child’s actions, abilities, or achievements, which can have a detrimental impact on the child’s self-esteem, confidence, and overall well-being.
Children who grow up with overly critical parents may develop low self-esteem, negative self-talk, and feelings of not good enough. As a result, they may struggle with self-doubt and have difficulty trusting their own abilities and judgement.
When they become parents themselves, they may unintentionally carry these negative self-beliefs into their own parenting. They may find themselves being overly critical of their own children, even if they don’t intend to be. This can lead to strained relationships and feelings of shame and guilt for both the parent and the child.
By recognising and acknowledge the patterns or behaviours that you inherited from your own upbringing. You can begin to understand how these patterns may be impacting your interactions with your child.
Take time to reflect on how your own needs and emotions were invalidated or criticised when you were a child and consider how these experiences have shaped your own beliefs and behaviours now.
4. Being told you’re responsible for other people’s emotions.
Let’s look at some examples:
A child witnesses their parents arguing, and one parent turns to them and says, “See what you did? You made mommy/daddy upset. It’s your fault.”
A child expresses their own emotions, such as sadness or anger, and their caregiver responds by saying, “You need to be happy so that everyone else can be happy too. It’s your job to keep everyone else’s feelings in check.”
A child refuses to eat a particular food, and their parent tells them, “If you don’t eat it, it will make grandma sad. You have to eat it to make her happy.”
A child wants to play with their toys instead of sharing them with a friend, and their parent tells them, “You have to share, or you’ll hurt their feelings. It’s your responsibility to make sure they feel included.”
When these children become parents themselves, they may inadvertently pass on this belief to their own children. They may feel overly responsible for their children’s emotions, which can lead to a lack of boundaries and an inability to provide their children with the space and independence they need to grow and develop.
In addition, parents who feel overly responsible for their children’s emotions may struggle with setting healthy boundaries and may struggle with self-care and may neglect their own emotional needs. This can lead to feelings of burnout and resentment, which can further damage the relationship with their children.
Breaking the habit of thinking you’re responsible for other people’s emotions can be a process that requires self-reflection and intentional effort. Be gentle with yourself. Start by becoming aware of the belief that you are responsible for other people’s emotions.Whenever you catch yourself assuming responsibility for someone else’s emotions, pause and question the validity of that belief.
5. Being given the silent treatment
Let’s look at a few examples:
A child accidentally breaks something, and their parent responds by completely ignoring them, refusing to speak or acknowledge their presence for an extended period of time.
A child expresses a difference of opinion, and their parent responds by ending the conversation and refusing to speak to them for several days.
A child forgets to complete a chore, and their parent responds by not speaking or responding to their attempts to communicate for an extended period of time.
A child misbehaves in public, and their parent responds by abruptly stopping all communication with them, refusing to engage in conversation or acknowledge their presence for the rest of the outing.
Children who experience the silent treatment from their parents may feel rejected, unloved, and invisible. They may learn to suppress their emotions and avoid conflict in order to avoid the painful experience of being ignored or ostracised.
When these children become parents themselves, they may unintentionally carry these learned behaviours into their own parenting. They may find themselves using the silent treatment as a form of punishment or control, even if they don’t intend to. This can lead to a breakdown in communication and trust between the parent and child, as the child may feel unsupported and unheard.
Parents who grew up with the silent treatment may also struggle with expressing their own emotions and communicating effectively with their children. They may feel uncomfortable with conflict and avoid addressing issues directly, which can lead to misunderstandings and unmet needs.
Overcoming the effects of being given the silent treatment can be a challenging process, but there are steps you can take to heal and move forward. Start to recognise that the silent treatment is a reflection of the other person’s behaviour and not a reflection of your worth or value.
By beginning to understand where your reactions come from, we empower ourselves to break free from old patterns. Recognising the impact of our childhood and how it influences our parenting is the first step towards growth.
As we cultivate self-awareness and embrace self-compassion, we can gradually release the burdens of responsibility for others’ emotions and let go of the need to please at the expense of our own well-being. By developing healthier emotional boundaries, practicing assertive communication, and prioritising self-care, we pave the way for more authentic and fulfilling connections with ourselves and our children.
Remember, the journey of self-discovery and personal transformation is ongoing. It requires patience and kindness But with each step we take towards understanding the roots of our reactions, we gain greater control over our present and the ability to create more harmonious and nurturing relationships.
What would you do with the information you have? What would your strategy be for making use of this newfound knowledge?
If you’re seeking support and guidance on your parenting journey, I’m here to help.Together, we can explore strategies, share insights, and empower you to bring out the best in you and your child. Don’t hesitate to reach out. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org