You have the power to learn and grow from your parents’ mistakes. Not all parents are created equal.
There are some who make mistakes based on what they believe was in your best interest, or those who do the best they can with the resources they have. Then there are those that are downright abusive and terrible.
Granted, there is no such thing as a perfect parent and there are lots of conflicting opinions about parenting. It can be confusing!
Of course, people feel the best about their childhood when their parent’s choices, behavior, personality seemed to be a good fit for the needs of a child.
That being said, not every parent is a good fit for every child, and vice versa. That is why we get to grow up and find people we fit with.
But what can we do to grow past our parent’s shortcomings? Regardless of whether those shortcomings were minor or tragic, you can reclaim your power and recognize your potential.
It can be difficult depending on the circumstances, but these tips will help!
Viewing your parents’ mistakes through a realistic lens of parental expectations
Parents only have to be “good enough.” This means that they provided you with the basics like food, shelter, and clean clothes.
Not every parent has the means to feed their children steak dinners every week at fancy restaurants, live in an enormous mansion, or buy designer clothes. A good enough parent also makes sure that you are physically safe, emotionally cared for, and educated to the standard of society.
If your childhood included all of those things, then you are pretty lucky, and odds are your parents were “good enough?” There should be no expectation of perfection because it doesn’t exist.
I always tell people, “Happiness equals reality minus expectations.” If your expectations are too high or unreasonable, you will be forever miserable.
Be honest with yourself
If you call your childhood perfect, you are probably denying real disappointments. Just like there are no perfect parents, there are no perfect childhoods.
Surely, you must have felt some resentment, envy, or anger at some point? Those are all human emotions that your childhood helps prepare you for later in life.
Maybe your parents were poor, and your friends all had new toys or gadgets weekly, while you had to wait or pay for them yourself. It is ok to have felt upset by this as a child, and now recognize that you learned a lesson that is valuable.
If you call your childhood terrible, but your parents still met the minimum standard of care, you are probably denying actual strengths and residencies in yourself. You also might not be aware of the strength and resilience your parents showed in overcoming obstacles and challenges.
If your parents didn’t meet the minimum expectations, that will make your journey of moving past their mistakes harder. However, the general idea here is the same.
You can not control what they did during your childhood, but you can control what you do now.
Have empathy for your parents’ mistakes
Everyone’s parents made the choices they made because of something in their past.
A little empathy and understanding can go a long way. It isn’t an excuse for truly awful behavior.
Yet it might help provide some insight and reinforce the fact that it is not your fault. What was going on in their lives and in their own childhoods? How were they raised?
Were their parents good enough? What was the financial/social/cultural climate?
What were their values as parents? What were their intentions?
If you do not know the answers, consider asking them. This doesn’t mean you have to forgive anything that you don’t want to, but it might help you understand.
Of course, they had a choice to move past their own parents’ mistakes, just like you do. However, society focused less on parenting and mental health in prior generations.
Understanding can lead to helping you overcome your obstacles, even if it doesn’t lead to forgiveness.
Narrate your own story
If you don’t like how your parents raised you, there is little you can do to go back in time to change it. It also won’t get you very far to look back on it with shame or disappointment or resentment.
Ask yourself what did I learn, gain, strengthen, grow from these experiences. How do they set me apart from other people?
What tools do I use in my present that I can be grateful I learned from my childhood (or learned to do something different). You don’t have to be happy with a not so great childhood.
However, if you can recognize that as an adult, you have the power to write your own story, life will be much easier.
Let go of resentment surrounding your parents’ mistake
Resentment is the feeling we have been hurt or harmed by someone else. I love the saying “Hanging on to resentment is like lighting yourself on fire and hoping the other person dies of smoke inhalation.”
Your staying angry will not help you feel better and will not ease the pain of your childhood. It will only keep you angry in the present, affecting your life now.
Let go of the resentment for the sake of your own mental health. Maybe you can get to a place where you reconcile with your parents.
Or maybe they are truly toxic and you need to walk away. Letting go of the resentment is a necessary component of either choice.
What are some of your thoughts about your childhood or the way you parent now? Do you have anything to add?
Let us know in the comment section below.