The most important messages we can convey as parents are promoting a sense of security and the feeling of unconditional love. Positive parenting provides a buffer against adversity. It teaches us how to respectfully give and receive care and compassion. It models trust, fairness, consistency and acceptance.
Imagine the child who is unhappy at school, perhaps academically, perhaps feeling bullied, perhaps lonely, or anxious…Now imagine what it might be like for that child to go home after school, struggle with homework, and again feel bullied, alone or anxious. Where does this child go to feel secure? What is the impact on this child’s self-esteem?
When this child sees angry looking teachers, schoolmates or family, how can they feel loved? If they have to perform or behave well to get satisfactory looks or comments, love is conditional. If they receive critical, negative comments when they do not perform or behave well, this is also conditional love. How can these children learn they are lovable and worthwhile? Some children are scarred by abuse, whether emotional, physical or sexual. What is the impact on these children’s self-esteem?
When we think about parenting, we generally think about raising young children and teens. It may be surprising to learn that when I work with adults and even senior adults in therapy, their esteem is still being impacted by the consequences of ineffective or negative parenting from when they were young. They often speak of their scars from childhood. These scars influence how they relate to others today in personal, family, business or casual relationships.
We might wonder why they haven’t grown beyond these feelings at this stage of their lives. Some people may be more resilient or adaptive than others but the bottom line is that poor parenting impacts us lifelong. We can gain insight; we can apply coping skills; we can learn how we don’t want to be. Despite being able to grow, from time-to-time, negative memories may continue to haunt us. That is why parenting is so important.
If you grew up thinking you would never be like your parents, below are some tips:
- Avail yourself of parenting resources such as Parenting With Love and Logic.
- Take a parenting course
- Consult with a psychologist or other mental health professional
- Remember to look in your child’s eyes and smile