Our parents were our first and primary relationships. How they interacted with us, and us with them, contributed significantly to how our experiences were internalized. This, in turn, shaped our life patterns. However, our parents had parents of their own. The way they dealt with us, therefore, depended on their relationships with their parents.

A childhood can never be viewed in isolation.

It’s part of a chain of childhoods from previous generations. Even the quality of the grandparents’ marriages can influence the views, experiences, and actions of the grandchildren. None of us really had perfect parents as children — parents who provided us with all the care we needed, exactly as we needed it. Our parents carried their own childhood idiosyncrasies, which interfered with their ability to always react in a way that was appropriate with us. Our current relationships, professional conduct, and parenting style are based on our childhood environment. Our relationship to our parents during our childhood are the reasons for our paradigms, or belief systems. Experiences as we grew up determined our basic feelings. In your early childhood, you learned intuitively what you needed to do in your family to get the love you needed. Every child wants to feel the approval of their parents. However, this is subjective. In some families getting approval means being quiet. In others, it may mean having high grades or holding in emotions.

What did getting approval mean in your family?

Everyone, without fail, needs to feel love for proper emotional development. The behavior patterns that you developed were survival strategies and were based on emotional dependence, wanting to feel loved. Children and adults alike are willing to do anything to get love. This is why you hold onto and repeat childhood patterns in every relationship. Your paradigms are your childhood systems for winning parental approval and love. You carry this into adulthood, subconsciously. Even though we know they weren’t perfect parents, we continue to try and seek their approval. We want what our parents taught us to be right. We don’t want to consider that the way our parents taught us to view ourselves and the world could possibly be wrong.

Acknowledging that our parents failed us is the first step to change.

Please hear me clearly. This isn’t about blame. This is about recognizing your childhood patterns of interacting with the two most influential people in your young, developing life. Once you see where and how the patterns were formed and admit that they aren’t all productive, only then can you make real and lasting changes in your adult lives. Especially in your interaction with your own children. I look forward to walking this journey with you so that you can put the past in perspective and moving into stronger relationships in the here and now.