Healing Childhood Wounds So You Don't Ruin Your Own Children!
Let me start by disclosing the fact that I'm not a licensed Psychologist, so this advice is based on my own opinions and practical application that worked for me.
I've repeatedly observed through the years parents who criticize their parents' methods of parenting, yet inadvertently perpetuate the same dynamics that they claim ruined their own childhood. Why is this? I won't get into the psychological aspects of it all, because that's what Psychologists are trained to do. The simple answer is... It's because those people have failed to LEARN a new pattern of behavior. They may have not yet aligned with the RIGHT therapist in order to heal their childhood wounds and LEARN a different way of parenting & ACCEPTING THEIR PARENTS for the place their parents were in at that time in their lives while raising them. If you are able to make the effort to find things about your parents that you RESPECT, I promise you that you will heal much faster and have a happier life. However, If you allow yourself to carry a VICTIM mentality into adulthood, you are only damaging yourself, your children and your relationships with anyone who fails to enable your victimization.
A parenting opportunity:
When I was raising my son, there were times when he was angry at his father for things he would do/not do or say. Instead of jumping on the bandwagon and encouraging my son to think poorly of his father, I intuitively knew that doing so would cause my son more harm than good. I opted to break the cycle of toxicity and promote positive parenting styles as best as I could and refrain from badmouthing my ex to our son.
EMPOWERING ADVICE: My response to my son was, "Son... tell your dad what he does that hurts you. If he listens, great. If he doesn't, don't feel defeated. You can't change your parents. Your dad is going to do things that you don't like or agree with. I am going to do things that you don't like or agree with. All you can do is make note of those things and don't ever do them to your own children or to other people. Take the GOOD things that you DO like about each of us and implement those into your parenting style when you have kids. Use these life experiences as TOOLS of what to DO and what NOT to do when you grow up." That gave him a sense of power over the situation and allowed him the freedom to FEEL his own emotions, to process them and to categorize them.
Children (& adults) need to have a sense of understanding their emotions and having their thoughts and opinions validated. If you rob your children of their independence, you fail to teach them how to think and process information in order to make decisions when you're not around. You subconsciously teach them that their opinions don't matter and to substitute someone else's opinions with their own. That is a parenting FAIL. If children aren't allowed to have their opinions VALIDATED and respected, they develop low self esteem and lack self confidence; Then we wonder why and how they succumb to peer pressure when we did "such a great job" raising them.
GENERATIONAL ACCESSIBILITY: It's easy for younger generations to harshly criticize their parents, because they often have no idea what life was truly like for their parents when they were raising children. As children, we saw the world from a child's perspective. As adults/parents, we attempt to put ourselves in the parenting role of our own parents and harshly judge our parents for their "failures" that we as parents "would never do to our kids!" Why is that? Because we are fortunate enough to have a plethora of parenting resources available to us, endless magazines, books, articles, blogs and television shows on parenting and psychology. Those didn't exist much prior to the early 2000's, though some books were available in libraries if you made the effort to check one out. There was no internet for our parents (or for those raising kids prior to the late 90's), unlike parents in their 20's and 30's today. The Dr. Phil show didn't debut until 2002. Prior to that, we pretty much had to figure things out as we went along. Now we can search the internet to find answers to just about everything, thanks to the amazing children who were raised by those "inadequate parents."
Family Therapists were extremely rare, whereas now they are an easily accessible resource that is socially acceptable. This is another thing that wasn't as socially acceptable to our parents' generations as it is now.
FIND SOMETHING TO ADMIRE: Make the effort to FIND something in each person that you know, but especially in your parents, that you admire and build on that. For me, I started with the fact that my mom was really good at acknowledging holidays. She loved to bake frosted sugar cookies every Christmas, Valentine's Day, Easter & Halloween. She decorated our house for those occasions, as well as for Thanksgiving. I then began to admire her talents for making crafts, painting and jewelry. In my efforts to FIND things that I DO respect about her instead of focusing on the things she did wrong as a mother, I was able to slowly shift my own thinking into consistently finding the GOOD in her, instead of allowing my brain to trail off to the negative things. In doing so, I realized that my mom is more of a Right-brained human being and I am more of a balanced-brained individual. (Testing shows that I'm 51% left, 49% right brained.) My mom has never been formally tested, but I suspect that she would likely demonstrate about 60-65% right-brained dominant.
EMBRACE YOUR DIFFERENCES: I believe this is good advice for ANY AND EVERY RELATIONSHIP that you have in life. If you only surround yourself with people who agree with you, you're never going to grow as a person. Sure, it allows you to maintain a false sense of control over your environment, but you don't truly ever mature. I'm not saying to burden yourself with someone who is toxic so you can grow as a person, but I encourage you to learn how to thrive despite your loved ones' toxicity. Sometimes you have to distance yourself from a person if they're stuck in a mentality of toxic thinking, but make sure you honestly check yourself frequently, too. Perhaps YOU are the toxic one and you are too stubborn to admit that.
If you find yourself having conflict with someone, stop and:
1.) Write down at least 5 things that you DO like about that person's character and personality. If you're unable to find 5 things, then YOU are the problem, not that person. Get therapy.
2.) Then write down 5 things that you admire about that person. Again... if this is hard, then YOU are the problem and you need to get professional guidance.
3.) Write down something that you hope to LEARN from that person.
4.) Write down something you can change about yourself that will enable you to bridge the gap between you and that person.
5.) Write down something you see in that person that is reflective of something negative that you see in yourself and that you don't like. This is most likely the culprit of what is causing you to push away from that person and cause division.
6.) Write down a POSITIVE goal for you and that person to be able to bridge the gap in your relationship. For example: Even if you have to start with, "I hope to be able to have lunch with that person without wanting to sock them in the face." That's a tiny step in the right direction. A more productive goal would be, "I hope to learn how to make a recipe from that person; or I hope to have her teach me how to make crafts that the person is good at making." Or "I hope to go on a Father/Daughter hike and learn how to hike or camp." Or "I hope my dad can teach me how to go fly-fishing." Whatever the person is good at doing, FIND something that you are willing to learn that the person can teach you. You will inevitably end up teaching the person something yourself while you're at it!
It starts with YOU. If you are able to hold yourself to a higher standard of behavior and commit to STOP being a victim, you will find yourself in a much happier place in your life and will build much stronger relationships based on love and acceptance of others. Perhaps you thrive on being a victim and you don't even realize it. Now is your chance to remove the small v from your T-Shirt and replace it with a capital V. Claim VICTORY over the victim mentality. Or... be stubborn, be "right" in your own mind and stay miserable. At least you have options.