How Did Your Parents Raise You?
Parents play a profoundly important role in shaping who we become as adults. The way your parents raised you impacts everything from your emotional wellbeing to your physical health, your relationships, your worldview, and beyond.
As we grow older, it’s worth looking back on our upbringing to analyze the sort of parenting we received – both the positives and negatives – to better understand ourselves.
Attachment and Emotional Support
One of the most fundamental aspects of parenting is the level of emotional support, nurturing, and attachment provided.
As infants and young children, having a secure attachment to our caregivers provides a foundation for social, emotional, and cognitive growth.
Some key questions to ask when reflecting on the emotional support you received growing up include:
- Did your parents make you feel loved, supported, and protected? Receiving affection, praise, comfort when hurt or upset, and encouragement are all hallmarks of emotional nurturing that contribute to secure attachment.
- Were your parents regularly available and responsive to your needs? Having caregivers who respond reliably and promptly to our needs as babies and young kids helps build trust and security. Unresponsive parenting can negatively impact development.
- Did you feel your parents were on your side? Ideally, children should feel their parents are ready to stand up for them, advocate for them, and serve as a safe haven. Parental criticism, neglect, hostility or rejection can cause attachment issues.
If you lacked emotional nurturing growing up, know that it’s possible to overcome insecure attachment with self-awareness and reparative relationships in adulthood.
Therapeutic modalities like schema therapy can also help.
Providing Structure, Guidance and Discipline
In additional to emotional bonding, parents serve the critical role of guiding behavior by introducing structure, setting expectations, establishing values, and using age-appropriate discipline.
Structure and Guidance
- Did your parents provide adequate supervision and set clear rules/guidelines for behavior? Structure is essential for helping children build self-control and responsibility.
- Were expectations, consequences, rewards, and punishments consistent and explained rationally? Inconsistent, threatening, unsupported rules lead to confusion and provoke misbehavior in kids.
- Did your parents model positive behavior? Monkey see, monkey do. Parents serve as behavioral role models – for better or worse.
The disciplinary practices our parents employ also profoundly shape us. Consider:
- Did your parents mainly use supportive discipline focused on teaching vs. overly punitive methods? Harsh physical punishments undermine mental health and parent-child trust.
- Did discipline fit the misdeed, or was it overly harsh/lenient? Inappropriate discipline causes resentment.
- Were you shamed, made to feel guilty excessively? Shaming often backfires, lowering self-esteem without improving behavior.
Overly permissive parenting can also enable delinquency, addiction, and life problems down the road. Reflecting on the type of discipline you received can reveal a lot about challenges you may still face.
Supportive approaches focused on understanding emotions and repairing harm lead to better conduct than authoritarian parenting.
Balancing Care, Overprotection and Autonomy Support
Parents must strike a delicate balance between caring supervision and overprotection. Consider:
- Did your parents support autonomy appropriate for your developmental stage? Allowing self-direction and decision making helps build confidence and responsibility.
- At the same time, were they appropriately involved and concerned with your wellbeing? Parental indifference can cause youth to feel isolated, engage in high risk behaviors.
- Did your parents prevent you from engaging in normal activities? Excessively controlling parenting inhibits the freedom crucial for identity development.
Finding the right balance helps prevent unhealthy entitlement or insecure attachment on one extreme versus negligence on the other.
The Influence of Family Relationships and Dynamics
Beyond the direct parent-child relationship, the broader family atmosphere and dynamics leave an imprint.
The marriage or partnership between parents serves as the primary romantic relationship model for kids. Consider:
- Did you grow up seeing partners treat each other with mutual care, respect and affection? A healthy parental bond demonstrates positive intimacy.
- Or were relationship dynamics fraught with conflict, coldness, control issues or abuse? This can normalize unhealthy relating.
Relationships with siblings also influence development. Reflect on:
- Were bonds with siblings mainly positive? Or characterized by intense rivalry, aggression or scapegoating? Poor sibling relating can strain family functioning.
- Did your parents treat you and your siblings fairly? Perceived unfairness breeds resentment between siblings and towards parents.
Wider family relationships outside the immediate household also provide relationship templates.
- Did extended family demonstrate cohesion through regular contact, support, and shared activities? This models interdependency.
- Alternatively, was your nuclear family isolated or estranged from relatives? This can limit a sense of belonging.
In a functional family system, parents balance meeting children’s needs with tending to couple and extended family bonds.
Breakdown in the wider family web impacts children.
Handling Conflict and Emotional Expression
No family is perfect. However, the way in which parents manage emotional dynamics during conflict leaves an important imprint that plays out in our adult lives.
- Did parents openly communicate when disagreeing? Or passive aggressively triangulate/enmesh kids? Direct but calm communication models conflict resolution skills.
- Were intense emotions allowed, safely expressed and worked through? Or were they suppressed/bottled up? Allowing appropriate emoting fosters emotional intelligence.
- Did parents have trouble apologizing or taking personal responsibility? Or demonstrate humility and repair harm from arguments? Responsible conflict management demonstrates accountability and preserves intimacy through storms.
The conflict resolution tactics we learn shape how we navigate disagreements in adulthood be it at home or work. Emotional repression also commonly passes between generations.
Modeling Healthy Coping and Self-Care
Parents serve as the primary model for learning to handle stress and meet one’s own needs.
Growing up, we closely observed how our caregivers recharged and took care of themselves (or failed to do so). Consider:
- Did your parents practice self-care by pursuing hobbies, getting enough rest, making time for fun? Or were they overworked, depleted, rarely taking breaks?
- Did they have constructive outlets for dealing with life’s difficulties such as exercise, therapy, connection, faith? Or did they lean heavily on destructive numbing devices like addictions?
Seeing parents attend to their own wellbeing with balanced self-nurturing gives us permission to do the same.
Their modeling enables our ability to cope and thrive rather than merely survive.
Providing for Basic Needs and Preparing You for Adulthood
The degree to which our basic needs get met during childhood impacts everything from brain development to emotional regulation capacity to relationships. Assess whether your parents:
- Reliably provided healthy nutrition, clothing, safe housing
- Made doctors appointments, gave medication as needed
- Provided school supplies, toys for play
Failing to meet these basic physiological and safety needs causes ongoing issues like developmental delays from malnutrition, PTSD from neglect.
Preparing for Adulthood
Ideally, parents also help kids build real world skills needed for an independent, fulfilling adult life. Consider whether your folks taught lessons around:
- Health/Hygiene – Brushing teeth, using deodorant, women’s health, safe sex, fitness, nutrition etc.
- Household duties – Cleaning, laundry, yardwork, pet care, cooking, finances
- Social skills – Making friends, handling peer pressure, resolving conflict, conversational skills and etiquette
- Education and career – Helping with homework, encouraging passions/talents, building work ethic, discussing jobs
- Hands-on life skills – Driving practice, first aid, travel navigation, time management, home/auto repairs
The degree of preparation we receive equips us for challenges awaiting after moving out and transitioning into grown up responsibilities.
Impact of Generational, Cultural Context
While parents undoubtedly influence kids’ development, their own upbringing and cultural context play a role too.
- Reflect on your parents’ childhoods – was their parenting shaped by generational traditions or dysfunction inherited from their folks?
- Did religious or cultural background introduce norms around gender roles, academic pressure, use of physical discipline?
Seeing our parents as imperfect beings with their own formative wounds – rather than solely as our tormenters – allows for forgiveness, breaking detrimental cycles moving forward.
Conclusion: Making Peace with an Imperfect Upbringing
Chances are your parents faltered in certain areas yet still managed to get some fundamental things right. Perhaps they prepared you for academic success yet struggled meeting emotional needs.
Or showed care in loving provision while failing at follow through with guidance.
Rather than judging, use reflections of their strengths and shortcomings to better understand your learned behaviors and current challenges.
Then you can consciously parent yourself where they fell short – and even forgive them in the process. While an imperfect upbringing leaves its scars, accepting it calmly prevents further bleeding enabling you to build better bonds moving forward.
Use the lessons learned to disrupt detrimental family cycles, heal your inner child’s wounds with self-compassion and forge new patterns with your own kids focused on mutual understanding.