There is nothing worse to me than seeing a parent that does not care or has lost the interest in doing what’s best for their child. Unfortunately, that is not always the parents fault, kids do not come with manuals and life is not a simple flat road that we travel with ease. I know they have been many time that my bad decisions have affect my child and made me a “shitty” parent in those moments.
All we can do as parents is learn to do better. Hopefully, this article will not only help parents but those individuals that are wondering what may have gone wrong in their family systems, and motivate some to restore some inner balance and peace.
Here are 7 “Unhealthy Parenting Behaviors” that may have been in your family system or that you are currently doing with your own children. If you notice that you may be doing any of theses, it’s important to recognize them and perhaps even go talk to a therapist on how to change the behaviors into healthier ones.
- Indirect Communication. This is when feelings are expressed in a slanted manner. The parent expresses anger or other feelings not in a timely manner or in an appropriate was. For example, instead of saying “Jessica, set the table for dinner” it would be expressed like this “It would be nice if someone would set the table.” Indirect Communication makes children and the whole family anxious, frightened, confused, and resentful. Little to no resolution would have taken place on incidences happening in the home. It teaches Passive-Aggressive communication.
- Triangulation. This is where the parent communicates through the child, for example “Jenny, tell mama that mommy wants to go out for dinner.” It is mostly seen in families where a parent will confide in the child, with the intention that those “messages” will be told to the other parent. The child is used as a form of communication, therefore the parent never has to take responsibility for what is said and uses the child to steer away from intimacy.
- Lack of Parental Accessibility. Here the child lacks the safety to communicate about emotions and feelings openly. As parents in modern society we demonstrate attention with financial rewards “if you’re good you get a present,” and we have moved away from truly being interested in knowing are children. When the child comes to us with feelings we are quick to turn it into an advice-giving session (do this), a fight (you should have done this), or denial (you’re not sad you are just really tired). These barriers that are erected towards are children fill them with mixed emotions. They may feel that they took precious time away from their parent, and are now selfish and wrong-doing children.
- Unclear Boundaries. Here the child lacks entitlement; they do not own any feelings and are not allowed to express them. Our children rights to privacy are taken away, and there may be no rules that protect boundaries and privacy. For example, in a healthy family, privacy is respected and even encouraged. Parents do not come into bedrooms and bathroom without knocking; they do not listen to other people’s phone conversations, read their mail, or allow they’re children to invade their privacy.
- The Moving Target. This is by far the saddest miscommunication. On occasion, the child will get their needs met by accident as a by-product of their parent getting their needs met. For example, Julia (age 7) needs love and attention from mom, but mom is too busy to give her any love (it is irrelevant what is keeping her busy, a job, depression, addiction, or busy with her partner). However, mom’s sister comes into town and mom wants to show what a good gay mother she is. Julia benefits from the visit of her aunt, but only because her mother is getting her needs met by using Julia. Once the aunt is gone then it’s back to the usual “I’m too busy” routine, and Julia is left wondering what she did wrong and what does she need to do to make her mom give her attention again.
- Lack of Entitlement. Children are not allowed to express or experience feelings that are unacceptable to their parent. For example, parents often struggle with believing that their child may be depressed. The child will learn skills to avoid making problems for themselves or with their parents.
- Mind Reading. Here the child is expected to know and foresee what the parent wants and can affect us long after we are in adulthood.
All of these behaviors discourage open communication of feelings and limits us in our growth. In these forms of communication the parents are more concerned with getting their needs met, the child than begins to feel responsible for the intimacy level of their parents, which is completely out of their control.
If you feel you may have experienced any of these behaviors in your family and that possibly it may be affecting you children or future children, speaking to a therapist would be of great benefit. A great book to learn more about how these behaviors in our family system affect us is The Narcissistic Family (1997) by Donaldson-Pressman and Pressman.
It is never too late to heal or change, especially once it has reach our level of awareness. Design your own life journey today.
~The Lesbian Guru
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