Recovering from Improper Parenting
Do you believe the Chinese proverb, "Under heaven, there are no parents who do wrong" (in ping yin: "Tian xia wu bu shi de fu mu"). Most of us care so much about our children that we often love them more than ourselves. But I have to point out that there are improper parenting practices in the Chinese culture.
Because parents are usually the first influence in our lives, what we learn or do not learn from them when we're young can have lasting repercussions. Unfortunately, this can translate into many people suffering from the effects of improper parenting.
If not addressed, those effects can be felt for a lifetime, and they include low self-esteem, being drawn into abusive relationships, unhealthy habits or inhibitions and feelings of worthlessness.
Improper parenting can include physical, sexual and verbal abuse, physical and emotional neglect, rejection, favoritism of one sibling over another, lack of discipline, forcing choices on children and being overly protective or indulgent, and of course, favoritism of one gender over another!
Often, people raise their children the way they were raised. So, it's important to heal your own wounds first and learn proper parenting techniques so you don't perpetuate this vicious cycle.
How, then, can we heal from improper parenting to become whole, healthier and happier members of society as well as being better parents to the next generation?
First, it is important to understand that, in an adult, there is still a part that thinks, feels and reacts like a child because, unfortunately, time alone does not heal childhood wounds. In addition, here are some other steps you can take to learn how to nurture and heal the child within:
Embrace the recovery process. Whether you decide to seek pastoral counseling, professional therapy, spiritual guidance, life coaching, or learn coping skills yourself, be aware that the process will take time and effort. Be patient with yourself and don't expect perfection.
Don't blame others. We cannot thrive in the present if we are living in the past or blaming others for our problems and conflicts. Even though we could not control the first years of our life, we also should not blame others for the choices we have made. We have to learn how to take responsibility and work through the traumatic feelings from the past that continue to haunt us in the present.
Identify and remove mental and emotional blocks. Through therapy, journaling or other techniques, it's important to probe the unprocessed issues from childhood that continue to negatively impact you and block you from living the life you want.
Learn new strategies. Realize that the process consists not only of learning the right behaviors, but about being a whole person. That means taking reasonable risks to build your emotional confidence, self-esteem and self-worth. Personally, my mindset and perspective changed when the Holy Spirit spoke to me through the Bible -- the word of God.
Growing up all over again. Essentially, it's almost like going through the growing up process again, but this time in a way that works for you. Self-help books may urge you to learn to rely upon yourself to meet your own needs or get what you feel you have been lacking, but we need a "full of grace" environment to grow. Taking it one step further, we need to be re-parented by someone who is safe and trustworthy. Ultimately, we all need to be re-parented, nurtured and re-shaped by God our Heavenly Father because no parents on earth are perfect.
Forgive. Forgiveness can be a controversial issue. Some regard it as necessary for healing; others say it is not. At heart, forgiveness comes from God and is a process of setting you free. It's not about condoning the way that you were parented, but about understanding the roots of your parents' behavior, letting go of the past, and moving on. Whether or not you decide to forgive your parents, do try to forgive yourself for any choices or behaviors you may regret. You might even reframe any regrets as opportunities for growth and learning.
Share your story. Support groups are an excellent opportunity for you to share your story with others in a safe environment. Listen to others who are also suffering, and pour your heart out to someone who can understand what you are going through or have been through, and you will find that you are not alone because of fellow travelers. Attending church fellowships and small groups on a regular basis could help because we all have one Father in heaven!
It's hard to imagine being a good parent and setting an effective example for our children until we've gone through the recovery process ourselves. However, once we begin to heal and let go of the mistakes our parents made in our childhood, we can not only break negative parenting cycles and become better parents, but better functioning human beings as well. Only by experiencing God's love and truly learning how to love and accept ourselves can we in turn love and accept others.
Thank you God for guiding me to recover from improper upbringing and giving me the opportunity to know my Savior Jesus Christ for who He is: "The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is Himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made Him known." (John 1:14, 18)
Author's content used with permission, © Claire Communications
I'm planning to start one or more "faith and family relationships" support groups. If you are interested in joining the group in your preferred language, please reply to this email or visit my website ParentingABCtoday.com and use the CONNECT form to tell me your language(s) preference (Cantonese, Mandarin or English) in a group setting. Thanks!
Happy Father's Day!
Winnis Chiang, founder of Parenting ABC and a retired LMFT, is passionate about helping Mandarin- and Cantonese-speaking parents to get along with, enjoy, and positively influence their American-born children.