Turning into our parents


By David Joel Miller.

Why do we become our parents?

Heard the story about the person who yells at their kid only to hear their parent’s voice coming from their mouth? As we age we tend to imitate the behavior of those we saw and learned from back in our younger days. For some people, this brings a chuckle, a realization that we have moved from being kids who can’t understand why our parents did something to adults who do the same things for the same reasons.

For some people turning into your parent brings terror.

There was a time when we thought all parents were great role models. At least that was what “Leave it to Beaver” portrayed. If parents were less than perfect we didn’t talk about that. Things were great in the country and then the suburbs. Those bad things only happen to others, the ones who lived in big cities.

Today the majority of us live in big cities and now we know that for all our efforts to pretend those things didn’t happen they did and still do. More people are telling me these days that their parents did drugs, molested them and deserted them. Today we know that in the rural towns young people are dying from overdoses of pills and parents abuse and neglect their children when they do drugs. Today we don’t hide the abuse and pain and more of us are mandated reporters.

People will accuse me of being jaundiced when I say these things. They tell me there are still people who want to be just like mom or dad. It helps to hear those stories. It makes me hope. Maybe we can teach people to be better parents. Maybe we can treat addiction and mental illness. Maybe we can have a future that is brighter than the present.

Then I talk with another person who was abused or molested or neglected as a child. They tell me that their parent was too into drugs or alcohol or some other thing to care about them. I see lots of grandparents raising their children’s children. I ask how this happened.

Grandma or grandpa or both, they used to do drugs. They got clean and sober just in time to raise the grandkids. It pains them to see their children repeating the same mistakes.

A client tells me they remember how it affected them when their parents did these things. Then they cry and tell me they are doing those same things, they are becoming just like their parents, and not in a good way.

People work hard sometimes, they deny themselves and they buy their kids everything, toys, gadgets, clothing. Then the child does drugs or falls into gangs. That child might tell us that they had things but they never felt loved. They got into relationships, sick abusive drug involved relationships. They still don’t feel loved.

They have children. Sometimes they straighten up for the kids. Sometimes society takes the kids away. The girl whose mother drank during pregnancy, the girl with permanent disabilities as a result of her mother’s drinking. She tells me she doesn’t know why she started drinking. Why couldn’t she stop drinking for her child?

For better or worse sometimes we turn into our parents. What kind of parent do you want your children to become?

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

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2 thoughts on “Turning into our parents

  1. They say it takes a number of generations to make change in a family. There are many area’s that I refuse to act like my parents in and I make extreme efforts to essentially not parent like my parents did (actually wrote a blog post entitled that) but am I doing a better job? Only time will tell, will my children have just as many issues with my parenting as I have with my parents? I hope not. I hope my children continue the evolutionary change and become their own people and parent in their own unique way, I certainly do not want them to just be a carbon copy of anyone. Mostly though I hope my children parent from a position of kindess and respect for their future children.

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  2. That is the right question. What kind of parent do we want our children to become. I have two wonderful children and my first thought every day is “how can I do the best for their long term”.

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