Have you ever been invited to a dinner party where the Host asked each of their guests to bring a part of the meal? Maybe the host is barbecuing and they are providing the meat but they have asked each of their guests to bring side dishes to go along with the meat. Of course everyone who comes to the party brings something, because it would be lame and tacky to show up empty handed. Everyone sits down to eat and even though you only brought chips there is a complete meal laid out on the table because everyone brought something to the table.
Parenting is a lot like that. You bring your own set of "dishes" to parenting your kids, as does the other parent, grandparents, aunts and uncles, close family friends, babysitters and teachers. Your dishes include everything from your past, your childhood, your knowledge on parenting, your personality type, your schedule, your understanding about life, and your own life experiences.
I am going to tell you about myself and what I bring to the table when it comes to parenting.
I grew up in a home where my father was very authoritarian - it was his way or the highway (or make likely a swift kick in the butt with his steel toe boots on) and my mom was very permissive. My mom knew my dad was abusive, anyone who lived in my house for a week could see how abusive he was, but for her own personal reasons she chose to stay with him and allow him to abuse us kids. She was also abusive in the sense that she never demanded anything of us kids and because she allowed the abuse to happen. Because I was abused in more than just the physical sense but also in the emotional abuse, I was never good enough even though I was always on the honor roll and never did drugs or drank or slept around. I was a good kid but my father wasn't content unless he was making everyone else miserable. I did not have good relationships with any of my aunts and uncles or grandparents because my parents didn't like them - my dad hated my mom's parents and my mom hated my dad's parents. I can honestly say that I was a good kid, but I was a depressed, lonely kid who would pray nightly to die because suicide was a sin and I could not sin. If I didn't have the church I was raised in (I am LDS) I can honestly say I would have killed myself when I was 13, but because I went to church weekly and knew the teachings were true I could not do that, my only hope was for God to take my life. He of course didn't and when I was teenager I was extremely blessed to have great church leaders, friends and teachers in my life who helped me to see that I had value, that I was a daughter of God and that even though my parents were not good parents He was the perfect parent. I turned to God as a teenager and He became my father. I still did not have a very high self esteem (I acted like it, in fact I bet if you ask anyone I went to high school with if they thought I had low self esteem they would say no) but I could put on a good show - school was my sanctuary, I had six solid hours of freedom, sure I had school drama but I would have taken that over the abuse in my home any day! I thought I was valued if boys liked me and so I became a flirt and would make out with almost anyone, I became a "player" because it was easier for me to dump the guys before they had a chance to dump me.
Fortunately for me the Lord put a lot of amazing people in my life who helped show me that life could be better, I dated a return missionary for over a year who taught me that men could respect women, both physically and emotionally. Then I met my husband and between him and his family I have learned to become the person I am today. I remember the first time I had a disagreement with my husband I didn't know how to react because he wasn't yelling at me or threatening to leave me, he was calm, and listened to my points of view and expected me to listen to his as well.
My husband came from a very different family that was very loving, he never saw his parents fight, his parents tried to give logical consequences and taught more by example than by the use of fights or pretending that nothing was wrong. His family was far from perfect but he had something I never had, an absolute knowledge that he was loved by his family no matter what.
When we became married I knew what I didn't want and he knew what he did want and together we created the perfect meal for my family. I knew that my kids would not be raised by spanking, he knew that we needed to respect each other, we both agreed that the word divorce would not be used in even a joking matter because how could I know he really loved me if he was joking about leaving me? It wasn't an easy path to figure out how to become the parents and spouses we wanted from each other - but then again most amazing meals take time to prepare as well.
I would encourage you to look at what you bring to the table in terms of parenting, what was your parents parenting style? Are there things that you are overcompensating for or maybe undercompensating for? Are you more strict or more lenient because of your past? Are there things you will absolutely not tolerate or things you are more likely to not care about? What kind of relationship do you have with your spouse if you are married? Is it one similar to your parents or completely different? The last thing I want you to ask yourself is this: "Are you truly happy with the way you treat your family and the way they treat you?" If the answer is yes then great! But if the answer is no, what can you personally do to find that happiness? Remember my last post - no one can make you unhappy, you choose to be unhappy by not taking the actions to become happy.