Do We Become Our Parents?

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Do We Become Our Parents?

Those who have the self-understanding to approach their own experiences with an open mind will be able to break any cycle of negative family interactions / Photo by Katarzyna Białasiewicz via 123RF


For many adults, there have been moments where they said or did something that made them think, “I sound just like my mother/father.” This is especially true for those who have become parents themselves. For some, this may not be an alarming realization, but for others, they may take the idea as less than ideal. But is everyone destined to be a copy of their parents in some way? Or is it an influence that can be changed over time?


Parents’ Influence

Our parents influence us in many ways: genetically, we are taken from their own DNA, from which our physical features and even some behavioral genes can be inherited. They are our first source of social support, and the main influencer of the environment we live in at home. Our earliest emotional situations and interactions will involve them as main players. During our infant and formative years, our parents are our main providers and protectors, so it makes sense that they would have the greatest influence on us.

Through ideas like attachment theory, children will have a basic understanding of how relationships work based on how well their parents or caregivers responded to their needs. The assumption is that optimal attachments early in life will influence how we behave as adults. Children who have their needs met in a timely manner become securely attached. These kids are free to explore more of their world and develop properly as they don’t need to worry about lacking in areas, such as emotional support and sustenance.

A Parent’s Guilt

There are many who are quick to blame parents for the ill behavior of their children. At first glance, this makes some sense, as the mentality is that good parents will foster good children, and bad ones will create bullies and hooligans. How many times have we seen a child act out in a supermarket or public area and thought to ourselves, “Why can’t their parents control them?” There are many parents who would quickly blame themselves for any untoward behavior that their children have, even if they did not teach their kids to behave in that way. On the other hand, many will celebrate when a child achieves something because it often becomes society’s perception of their superior parenting skills.

In some ways, as stated by Psychology Today, this may be the reason that many parents go overboard in pushing their children to activities they may not necessarily want or personality traits that don’t come naturally. One instance would be teaching your child to write “thank you” notes to people who have helped them. While a good practice in itself, a mother may push it too far by having their child write and rewrite the note so that it is perfect in an effort to show everyone how well-mannered her child is. Many parents then become motivated to mold their child into a certain image that satisfies their own needs rather than their child’s.

Children, in turn, who want their parents’ approval, also inevitably learn from these parents that the commitments that were worth pursuing were the ones that their parents wanted. However, it is essential to children later on in life that not everything they learn will be from their parents, especially as they enter their school years. And adults who think this way should also realize that whatever they learned in their youth can be changed for the better.


Changing Negative Behaviors

Of course, the question then leads parents thinking that they weren’t “good enough” to provide one with their needs as a child. According to CBC, it isn’t what happened to you that makes you who you are, but how you interpret what happened to you and the ways that have affected your life. Dan Siegel, a child psychologist, says that parenting will allow those with young children to reflect on their own experiences from when they were that age.

Those who are worried about steering their own children down a bad road will be pleased to know that having negative experiences yourself doesn’t mean you’ll recreate them. Those who have the self-understanding to approach their own experiences with an open mind will be able to break any cycle of negative family interactions. Budding parents should know that they are free to choose and change their parenting behaviors toward their children’s emotional well-being, as they are in a different role from when they were the child.

Children will have a basic understanding of how relationships work based on how well their parents or caregivers responded to their needs / Photo by Studio1one via 123RF


Several parenting help programs make use of this knowledge to help guide budding mothers and fathers in learning something from the way they were parented. They are told to ask themselves questions, such as, “What do you like in the way you were parented?” and “What are the behaviors you would not want to repeat with your own child?” to reflect on and improve their parenting styles.

Despite the mannerisms and opinions, you can inherit from your parents, anything that you deem negative can be done away with if one uses introspection to do so, and anything positive can certainly be reinforced.



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