Today I had a Play & Workshop class on Play at my office, an afternoon consult at a preschool regarding an aggressive child and an evening workshop on Sibling Relationships. In each situation, I had a parent comment about how their own history is impacting their parenting today.
When discussing Play, one mom pointed out that growing up as an only child, she never really understood being silly. Being alone to play often, she just didn’t get that part of pretending. Fast forward, she has three daughters under three years old. She describes them as being silly, a lot. She feels like she is learning a whole new skill in how to let go and just enjoy the silliness. She’s had to work to get over feeling self-conscious, but says it’s worth it for the pleasure of playing and laughing with her girls.
The dad of the aggressive preschooler, came to the meeting with bigger concerns than the conversation at hand. He sat quietly and listened to the first few minutes about structuring a consistent approach to discipline and outlining a second effort to coach the child on being gentle before asking questions that immediately brought up his own childhood. He asked me to get to the bottom line, to let him know if there was a specific diagnosis or label to discuss. He went on to explain there was a family history of larger, diagnosable difficulties, and he was sure this meeting was a first indicator of his child being on that path. It wasn’t an indicator at all, but his past experiences directly influenced his thoughts leading into the meeting.
In our Sibling workshop, a mom commented on how her own difficult sibling dynamics made her particularly aware of the relationships between her own children, that it pained her when they did as little as bicker. While she cognitively recognizes that some bickering and argueing are a normal part of most sibling relationships, she has a tough time keeping it in perspective.
It seems a very healthy thing to step back from our parenting and look at what we bring to family dynamics from our own childhood experiences. Take time to ponder your own sibling dynamics and your own parents’ style and approach to discipline. Think about what you want to replicate or avoid in your own growing family.