We are not born “knowing” how to be parents. But, we are, all of us, born with a deep-rooted need to connect, to attach to at least one person on whom our survival depends. And, as we grow into adulthood, we continue to seek that connection, that attachment. And, depending on how that need for attachment was met, as adults, we are either repeating patterns or breaking them. And, as we become parents, we are either repeating patterns or breaking them.
If we are not born “knowing” how to parent, then where do our ideas about parenting come from? Well, from how we were parented, the environment of our childhood. That makes sense, doesn’t it? We carry within us that parenting model and that model influences how we parent. Most of the “knowing” is on an unconscious level. When we treat our children as we were treated, that familiar dynamic is comforting. It’s reassuring to to feel that, by treating our children the way we were treated, it justifies the way we were treated.
More often than not, the way we parent is an unconscious replaying of what Pam Leo describes in her book, Connection Parenting*, as a parenting tape—that is, all the unconsciously absorbed information that permeates our daily lives — how we were treated by our parents, how we were spoken to, will inform our own parenting. We will either replay that tape, or we may go the other extreme and try to erase it by parenting in a way that is the complete opposite of how we were parented. Neither path will lead us to that deep connection with our children, unless we are willing to stop and acknowledge the “tape” that unconsciously informs our parenting.
Acknowledging the unconscious framework that informs our daily parenting actions requires that we, as parents, do the work necessary to unravel that tape, and in doing so, we can be more conscious of how we respond to our children’s needs rather than react in the moment. The key, then, to unlocking the door to a deep connection with our children is understanding our own childhoods and how our parents responded to our needs. And when we acknowledge the truth of our own childhoods, we can create a new tape, a new environment, for our children.
*Connection Parenting: Parenting Through Connection Instead of Coercion, Through Love Instead of Fear by Pam Leo