Are the Parenting Ghosts of Childhood Past Haunting You?

Posted October 29, 2009 by

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There isn’t any better time than Halloween to pay tribute to the ghosts of our childhood past. Becoming a parent provides the unique opportunity to revisit these ghosts and see them in a whole new way. What do I mean by this? Many of us struggle with images from our childhood of parents or relatives who were very strict, very permissive, or just plain ill-equipped to parent. For some of us, our ghost may take the form a strict disciplinarian. We might struggle with setting limits in our own families for this reason, in our attempts to not be the same way. Or maybe you come from a family of certified yellers, and it’s difficult for you to keep calm and in control while you parent.

I talk to quite a few parents on the 1-on-1 Coach who struggle to be in charge of some of their own ghosts instead of letting the ghosts run the show. Even before I became pregnant, I tried to picture what my ghosts would look like and if I would be okay when they came to visit. Inherently, becoming a parent invites you to hold the mirror up to yourself. Part of what reflects back is how you were parented. In the midst of all those images, experiences, and feelings that get conjured up, you begin to form ideas about what things you want to replicate in your own relationship with your children — and vow to not do the things that bothered you as a kid. (The “I’ll never do what my mom/dad did!” moment.)

Of course, we all find ourselves doing exactly what our parents did (and we vowed we wouldn’t do) from time to time. The beauty of it is, we don’t have to be stuck in the past. We can change, even though it’s one of the hardest things we might ever tackle. James Lehman says that sometimes as parents we find ourselves trying to push past what comes naturally (and that isn’t working any longer) in order to try something different that will be uncomfortable. I’m not one that particularly enjoys being uncomfortable in any sense of the word, but being a parent has forced me to step out of my comfort zone. I have found that when those moments of discomfort pass, and they can be so tough, you’re able to see that you have the power to reshape yourself into a more loving and giving parent.

What I’ve realized is that while the ghosts of our childhoods might cause us to mourn what we didn’t have at times, they can also move us to celebrate what we have gained.

What ghosts are you struggling with Which ones have you already conquered


As a 1-on-1 Coach, Tina Wakefield coached parents on techniques from the Total Transformation, as well as Empowering Parents' other programs, for over 8 years. Tina is also a mother and stepmother.

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