“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

We tend to use this phrase when we talk about how similar a child is to their parents, when we notice repeated behaviors, patterns, and choices that pass across generations. The logic is simple: children mirror their parents’ actions and are wired to follow the examples they set.

Think about it. Our kids learn everything about life from us: how to crawl, walk, eat, sleep, talk—and eventually how to interact with other human beings and make their way through the world.

The pressure to set a good example or be a good role model can weigh heavily on you as a parent. That’s doubly true if you had issues or challenges (and who didn’t?) in your own childhood. Everyone faces roadblocks that stem directly from their childhood experiences. And whether or not we’re willing to admit it, our own upbringing directly affects how we raise our children.

I’ve shared my own story at a TEDxGEM in France: I had a loving but very traditional mother who believed that children should be seen and not heard. Because I was trained to repress my inner voice, I learned to keep my mouth shut—even when people took advantage of me.

We each have a story, and we all have scars. But we must put in the work to avoid perpetuating unhealthy patterns with our own kids. If you’re not careful, the issues your had with your own parents will rear their ugly heads in your relationships with your children.

Are you a new mother or father committed to building a loving, healthy environment for your baby to thrive? Or maybe you’re a seasoned parent whose negative patterns from your upbringing are beginning to show up in your relationship with your teenager?

Here are 3 warning signs that the apple may be a little too close to the tree:

  1. Projection. Did you have a happy childhood? Did you feel supported, understood, and seen by your primary caregivers? Adults who felt abandoned early in life, for example, may unknowingly project their own feelings onto their kids. A parental response could result in extreme behaviors such as distancing or smothering. When you respond to your child, are you acting based on your feelings or theirs?
  2. “Tough love.” Some parents deny their kids so-called benefits or privileges because they didn’t receive that treatment when they were growing up. A father may say, “You’ll work every summer instead of going to camp, because that’s how I grew up and learned to be responsible.” But “tough love” isn’t always the answer. Ask yourself if you really needed that kind of harsh treatment from your parents. What if they had been more supportive and understanding instead?
  3. Parenting out of fear. Parents understandably want to prevent their kids from making the same mistakes they did. But parenting out of fear that your children will rebel may convey the message that you don’t trust them—or, even worse, that they’re bad kids. A healthier alternative to fear-based parenting is to empower self-direction. Listen to your children’s thoughts and opinions. Show them that they can talk to you about anything and that you’ll always love them no matter what.

Facing your childhood issues head-on isn’t easy, but reckoning with your own story is the only way to ensure that the next chapter is better. When we heal past wounds, we release our children (and ourselves!) from generational patterns and lay the foundation for healthier parent-child dynamics. No matter where you are in your parenting journey, you can start to eliminate childhood baggage and create a clean slate for your kids.

Ready to work through your past to improve your relationship with your child? Send me a message and let’s begin your journey together.

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