Being a Parent Doesn’t Automatically Make You Wise, Knowing How To Make Your Child Emotionally Safe Does!

Photo by Steve Wiesner on Unsplash

As NLP practitioners, we often come across people with unresourceful behaviours, mindsets or belief systems. In many cases, on digging deeper, we find that their current state of mind (even if they are adults and parents now) has roots in their childhood or teenage years. These deep-seated emotional setbacks are often unknowingly caused by ignorant parents. The reason why I’d like to focus on ‘unknowingly’ and ‘ignorant’ is because even though the parents perhaps never did anything on purpose, they never realized that their actions or words could leave long-lasting scars on their children’s psyche. However, at any level if such scars were inflicted consciously, parents should understand the implications of their actions and realize the magnitude of the impact. Nevertheless, in this article our focus would remain on the former category of parents than the latter.

The article explores long-term effects of such negative parental influences on individuals and how to address them.

What could go wrong?

Blame-Game:

Blaming children for negative situations, for example, separation between the parents or for not being able to deal with financial pressures. It is okay to tell children the truth but overexposure to negativity and burning them out by placing blame is a bad idea. It could rock their emotional foundations.

Watch Your Words:

Being sarcastic, toxic criticism, negative comparisons with others and comments about children’s appearance, capabilities, talents, personality etc. is like beating them down emotionally, paralysing their self-confidence, and then expecting them to fight the world.

Being in Constant Control:

Being controlling and overbearing towards children, irrespective of whatever the intentions might be, could have some real adverse impact on the child’s reality map (i.e. how one perceives the world in their mind).

Unrealistic Hopes:

Imagining the child to be our best representation, the perfect us and in a superlative sense be as good as or better than ourselves, or expecting them to be everything we aspired to be — one has to reflect, where is the child in this? Isn’t it all about ‘us’?

Having expectations and encouraging children to succeed in things they are good at and giving them the tools to this end, is certainly very different from pushing them to reach out for the sun and the moon. If they are capable of being great at something, we could have their back and watch them soar!

Deprivation:

Depriving children of the affection that comes along with parenting (despite all our efforts at parenting, affection and emotional safety quotient could often go missing). Life is for sure very busy but when we are with our children, being present in that moment matters, and sometimes that’s all it takes.

Now let’s look at the different kinds of harm that parental behaviours cause:

Consequences of Blame-Game:

We often come across people who blame themselves for every negative experience in their lives or for every experience that they view negatively. They go about doing their jobs with a sense of deep guilt — for not earning enough, not getting that promotion, not being stable, not giving enough time to the family because they are too busy earning their living, not being able to create a strong foundation for themselves and so on. Guilt is their constant companion in life and there is hardly any escape from that. There has to be a conscious intervention through which they are made to realize that their mind is running an outdated script and they do stand a chance!

Watch Your Words:

Sarcasm or constant comparisons, toxic criticisms might not necessarily lead children to disrespect parents but they mostly start to despise themselves for the way they are. This affects their opportunities of self-love and appreciation, and makes them emotionally distant. Even as adults, they do not pay a lot of attention to facial emotions and tend to have their guards on. This happens because they had, as children, developed a defense mechanism of not looking at the facial expressions of their parents while they would hurl discomforting words. As a result they often transform into anxious adults who are unnecessarily self-critical and overtly sensitive towards criticism. Their foundations affect personal as well as professional relationships at varied levels.

Please refer to this link I came across which has documented something similar: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180611133507.html

Being in Constant Control:

Children needs parents to understand them and guide them. They are not to be walked all over. By being overtly controlling either they are silenced or become rebels; either ways as adults they lack decision-making skills or sense of security. They also tend to struggle in relationships and evolve as less content individuals. As adults they feel the need to be controlled, or conversely, how much ever they hate being controlled, sometimes their lack of direction compel the people around them to take charge!

Unrealistic Hopes:

As adults people tend to set unrealistic and equally high standards for themselves. This is a habit that often gets carried over from their childhood. The more unreal they get, the more frustrated they feel with their lives because the gap between what they can do and what they want to do becomes a matter of concern.

When parents are only satisfied with children if they are able to earn trophies or A-grades at school and can’t accept them as just normal/‘average’ performing kids it just makes it more difficult for people to accept themselves as ‘average’ adults. The behavioural manifestations are mostly negative, akin to lack of self-worth, hopelessness, raging dissatisfaction, feeling of failure or trying to live up to measuring criteria that even they are unsure of.

Deprivation:

Deprivation could lead people to try please anybody and everybody, be extraordinarily nice to everyone, and go out of the way to seek external validation of their efforts. This is not to be mistaken with some kind of vague attempt to be popular or be sought-after. On the contrary, these are the people who generally are not good at saying ‘no’ because they genuinely seek affection and feel the need to be admired by the external world. Now, unfortunately the world is a tricky place to live in and these people end up feeling exploited, unappreciated and unhappy leading to a sense of hopelessness because one can never impress the whole world. Deprivation could also cause severe eating disorders, substance abuse or bad habits to fill in the void that rules their world.

To conclude, I am aware that this article only scratches the surface of deep issues. However, I felt that summarizing some of the most common causes and effects of dysfunctional parenting will not be remiss. That’s because as adults (who might have faced similar situations as children) we need to be aware of why we act and think in the way we do. There is a need to halt, look back and watch the train of events that shaped us, acknowledge them, take our learnings, take control of our actions/behaviours and allow ourselves to consciously march towards a fruitful future. On the other hand, as parents, we need to be aware of our actions — we ought to pause to look back, research more on the consequences of the type of parenting we do, take actions to make modifications and introduce changes in our approach.

NLP helps to take us through this process of being Aware-Halt-Take Action in the right context and steer ourselves towards a more constructive path!

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