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A Matter of Style

Parenting styles can create problems in the parent/child relationship. Often, parent’s are not aware of the way their parenting style affects their children. In an effort to develop certain desirable behaviors, (clean room, good grades, etc.) parents can actually develop and reenforce the opposite undesirable behavior.

Often, parents do what they believe will work in raising their children based off what worked with them as they were children living in their parent’s home. Forgetting how they felt when their parents parented them, they use the same tools hoping for a similar result saying, “I turned out okay.” Good intentions and believing their parent’s methods, combined with their opinion that they can do a better job,they think will result in a better outcome. So they repeat the parenting style they received and they forget how they rebelled in their youth even as their own children “rebel” in their own ways; often in more aggressive and destructive ways of rebellion. Where one parent may have “stayed out late” or “got pregnant,” today’s children rebel by self-harm (cutting), alcohol or drug addictions, suicide, or even homicide.

Therefore, I’d like to take a brief look at parent/child relationships and parenting styles. The most obvious type of negative parental style which can cause problems is an abusive parent.

There are two most common forms of abuse: Overt and Covert.

One form of an overt act of abuse can be physical abuse. This can leave scars on the body as well as on the heart; resulting in emotional damage from years of verbal abuse and mental scars left behind when someone is physically or sexually abused. This type of abuse is easily identified and there is often “evidence” of abuse left behind. The results of this type of abuse are longstanding, and not easy to overcome. Many suffer the affects of sexual abuse decades after the assaults occurred and many never overcome the feeling of being used, even as they marry and begin families of their own.

Covert abuse leaves deep wounds as well, but they are not so easily recognized to the untrained eye. These covert abuses include abandonment, unfair comparisons and expectations, emotional abuse (shame and blame), and criticism.

Abandonment is where one or more of the parents “leave” the child though divorce, or broken relationships. Abandonment can even happen in a home where both parents are physically present, but they don’t pay any attention to one or more of their children; Dad is a workaholic, mom is busy with housework, or social engagements. Both parents are “home” but they are not engaged in the lives of their children.

An example of a parent with unfair comparisons and expectations might be that the parents compare the “good” child against the “bad” child, “Why can’t you be more like your sister/brother.” Or they project their expectations through comparing themselves with their children, “When I was your age, I would get the belt for doing that.” They can be critical and criticize the child with an overall label that tells the child they have no value, and they are hopeless, “You’ll never be anything other than a worthless bum!” This criticism can develop a sense of shame and guilt in children who neither have the ability to change their parent’s expectations, anymore than they can reach their parent’s goal of perfection.

As parents, we often don’t seek wisdom regarding being a “good parent” and therefore we repeat the negative (unhealthy) parental patterns that frustrated us as children because we have no other knowledge of how to be a better (healthy) parent.

As a therapist, I’ve seen men and women come into counseling for traumas that occurred 20-40 years earlier in life, but which they have never overcome. My advise to anyone who suffers with the memory of childhood abuse, please seek counseling from a reputable therapist. Don’t let your past rule your future. And please don’t repeat the mistakes of you’re parents by not learning new and better ways to guide, counsel, and raise your children. Let’s break the cycle of abuse now.

Call Encouragers Counseling & Training Centers, Inc. to schedule your first step toward being a better parent. Your children will thank you for it.

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