Do you parent like your parents? Did they parent like their parents? Chances are that although each of you are a part of a different generation, there are at least some practices that have been handed down over the years, part of what many marriage and family experts call generational parenting. While some people refer to generational parenting via coined terms such as Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, and Millennials, let’s focus instead on how generational parenting is relevant in 2020.

What does generational parenting look like? Here’s an example. Have you heard the story about a woman preparing a roast for her family? In preparing the meal, she cuts off one end of the roast and throws it away before putting it in the oven. The husband, never having seen this before is mystified by the action and questions her. The wife responds that it is simply always how her mother prepared roast.  The husband then asks his mother-in-law about the practice and she responds in the same way as her daughter. Eventually, he asked the grandmother-in-law as well. She said the only reason she prepared roast that way was because her roasting pan was too small to hold the entire roast.

Do you see the generational pattern of behavior here? We tend to repeat certain practices that our parents initiated, often without question. Some of the most common generational parenting practices can address:

  • How to deal with a child having a temper tantrum
  • What are ways of showing love to a child
  • How to properly discipline an adolescent
  • What time curfew should be for teens

At The ARKGroup, we encourage parents to examine past family parenting behaviors they are now bringing into their own families. This is critical in helping parents identify which of these parenting techniques are helpful and which no longer are. This takes work and can be challenging.

Because so many of these practices are a huge part of our own family experiences, as adults it can feel like a betrayal to question or change them if we find them not to be beneficial in modern day life. It can take a great deal of courage and insight to break a generational pattern, even if we believe it to be in our children’s best interests.

Breaking away from some generational parenting practices can be seen as the final step toward adulthood, in that once we take a step away from what we have always known, we cannot predict how our own parents will react.

Parents who love unconditionally will continue to love you and support you in making good decisions, even if they are not their own. If a parent’s love is conditional, we often try to establish parenting techniques that will win their support and love, but at some point we must realize these efforts are largely futile and that we must forge ahead in our own way. One of the most successful ways to stop unhealthy patterns of generational parenting is to let go of the past by identifying and forgiving our own parents’ limitations.

It is fair to say that the year 2020 is unlike any other year in history, filled with its own unique trials and challenges. The things that your parents faced when raising you are likely an entirely different set of circumstances than you face in raising your own children today. And as they say, desperate times can call for desperate measures, even if it means bucking the generational parenting system because it is what is best for your family.

A man shared that his father was an impressive attorney whose greatest desire was that his son followed in his footsteps. The man felt the weight of letting his parents down should he choose a different career. Tragically, as a college student his parents were killed, and in accord with their last wishes, he became a highly successful criminal defense attorney. But in his late thirties, the man chose to follow his own dreams and went back to school to become a middle school math teacher and found even greater happiness in his new profession.

The man eventually broke this unhealthy pattern of generational parenting, and because of this difficult and hard work is now able to realize the importance of encouraging his own children to pursue a career they want.

Parenting is hard work, and no one is perfect, but it is empowering to know we can break the cycle of generational parenting to do what is best for our own families. One of the best gifts parents can give their children is that of unconditional love and acceptance, whether we experienced the same from our own parents or not.

The journey can be challenging but worth it to establish healthy patterns of generational parenting. It can begin with you right here and right now in 2020 and has the capacity to enrich and benefit your family for generations to come.

Dr G

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