The Dilemma of Childhood Experience and Parenting Strategies
What is the impact of one’s own childhood experience on their parenting strategies as an adult?
I’ve never met a parent who didn’t want the best for their children. I’m not referring to wealth or material acquisitions. I’m talking about the instilling of qualities that underlie the development of positive social behaviors from infancy on, such as an adaptable personality, the ability to formulate flexible strategies, and the capacity for resilience. In other words, you want to see your child grow up to be a happy, well-adjusted adult. How does someone begin to develop parenting strategies and how does one’s childhood experience of being parented come into play?
I suggest that if you are contemplating raising a family, that you begin by reflecting upon your own childhood experience since it is often predictive of how you will parent your own children.
“Wait a minute,” you might say, “I would never do such and such to my children,” (referring to distasteful childhood experiences).
True, most of us make conscious decisions not to repeat our parent’s hurtful behaviors, yet the truth is, we are the product of our experience. To illustrate, please consider the following questions which are put to you now, as an adult, but know that your answers may be rooted in your early life experience:
1. Is it easy for you to connect to others in a meaningful way?
2. Are you comfortable in social situations or would you prefer to be alone?
3. Do you welcome new experiences or do you tend to stick to familiar situations?
4. Is your response to a stressful challenge organized, chaotic, or numbing?
Researchers in the field of early childhood development have linked behaviors associated with the above questions to experience-dependent patterns of brain organization which offer clues to an individual’s capacity for adaptability, the development of effective strategies, and resilience.
In view of the above, we may have to make conscious decisions to change our behaviors when we begin to parent.
Developing effective parenting strategies can be quite difficult if that was not our childhood experience. An effective parent is not a reactive parent. Adaptability and resilience can be developed and are invaluable when attempting to meet the needs of our children.
Parenting is one of the most important and challenging tasks that an individual can take on. While you can never be completely prepared, the more you understand about your own childhood developmental history, the more present you can be as a parent.
If you are a parent, did you find yourself struggling to give your child a different kind of parenting experience then you had received?