Being a parent is the hardest job anyone will ever have, mostly because you're attempting to raise a human while simultaneously continuing to work on yourself, as a human, too. Parenthood doesn't magically make your baggage disappear, and even on your best days (when you're completely aware and conscious and trying your best to keep it all together), you can still end up unintentionally passing your issues onto your kids. I mean, basically children are born absolutely perfect and it's our job to try and not screw them up in our own, very specific way.
The rules of parenthood aren't written in black and white. Instead, the rules are an endless list written in shades of gray, covering a myriad of circumstantial situations that every parent will end up handling differently; given their past and their baggage and the problems they are working through or have worked through, too. While there are ways to make parenthood easier, it doesn't just magically become easy on any random day, and stay easy for the rest of your motherhood journey. Instead, it's a constant effort and, because we're humans, we will slip up and mess up and, you know, fail. We just need to remember that our children will mimic our behavior, both the good and the bad.
No, I'm not saying that one slip up will ruin your kid for the rest of their days, but what I am saying that there are ways that you can be passing your issues onto your kid; ways that you could avoid, if just taking a few extra steps to think; ways that, honestly, you can try to work on not only for your benefit, but for your kids' benefits too. I know for me, personally, how I talk about my body and how I talk about other people and how I talk about myself, as a woman, have all changed, in an attempt to not pass down my issues and my preconceived notions, onto my kids. They benefit, I benefit, dare I say the world benefits? Yeah, I'll say it. The world benefits, so I think it's a win-win.
No, you don't have to be perfect and yes, you're a work-in-progress, just like your kid, so it's okay to be, you know, human. With that being said, here are eight ways you're unintentionally passing your issues onto your kids, because you can't fix what you don't know and, well, I'm glad I know this now:
Belittling Yourself (Even Jokingly)
We all get discouraged about ourselves. That's just an unfortunate side-effect of life and fighting against the dying of the light. However, when you beat yourself up, both mentally and emotionally and especially vocally, over mistakes or mishaps or even the things that might be beyond your control, your child is taking mental notes. It doesn't do them any good to see you putting yourself down. If they see you telling yourself that you, their hero, are not good enough, they may grow up thinking that they will never be good enough, too. No one is perfect, and that's OK, but try not to make a spectacle out of what you feel are your flaws because your child might grow up feeling inadequate, too.
Belitting Other People
Belittling in general should just be absent from a parent's daily routines. When your child sees you talking down to or about other people, they might feel like they are somehow above those people. They could get a sense of entitlement based off of no merit whatsoever, and if our history has taught us anything, it's that making judgments pertaining to societal status or importance based off of race, gender, ethnicity, finances, etc never leads to anything even remotely positive or helpful.
Your child needs to understand that they should treat everyone as equals, and that they are no better than their neighbor, no matter how different they may be.
When They Hear You Judging Others
It's not just being condescending to someone's face that could damage your children, talking down about someone behind their backs accomplishes the same thing. Again, your child hearing you say negative things about others (probably based off of little to no actual factual information, but baseless judgements) gives them the permission to judge others and believe themselves better than others. We don't need to agree with everyone or see eye-to-eye, but you do have to respect others so that your kids will respect others, too. We need to give our children examples of inclusion and diversity and acceptance, so that they will grow up with an open mind. Isn't there enough hate in the world already? Let's show our children that we know how to love and respect everyone, despite our differences.
Letting Them See You Lose Your Temper
We all lose our temper, inevitably. All of us. It happens, but it shouldn't happen frequently, especially in front of our kids. If you reach the point when you feel like steam is about to come out of your ears, it's a good idea to retreat to a place where your child won't get burnt by that steam. If they see you lose your temper, they're going to think that yelling or hitting or stomping or throwing are all acceptable ways to express how their feelings, and even though, yes, it happens sometimes, that's not behavior that should become frequent.
Talking About Financial Stresses In Front Of Them
Financial stresses are, unfortunately ,a prevalent part of many families' lives. However, finances are adult problems, and burdening children by making them aware of the struggle that is keeping a roof over your head and food on the table is, you know, senseless. Let kids be kids; let them play and make messes and daydream about being the president and don't force them to grow up too fast by worrying about the financials trials and tribulations of adulthood. Teach them the value of experiences and feelings and people, not material things that require a steady stream of cash.
Talking About Your Own Body Insecurities
Feeling self-conscious is something that no one is completely immune to. However, if your child watches you degrading your own body, they might start doing the same to theirs. You probably don't like it when your worth is calculated based on your physical appearance, rather than your intelligence or integrity or kindness or physical abilities or personal goals, so why would your child? Your child needs to know that their value has nothing to do with their physical appearance, and that there is no such thing as one "perfect" body type or weight or size. They need to see you love yourself just as much as you love them.
Your Strained Relationships With People In Their Lives
If there are people in your child's life that you don't necessarily enjoy, you still need to show your child an example of a well disposed relationship. Your reasons for liking or disliking someone are just that: your reasons. Don't make those reasons your kid's, and change their perception of someone for your benefit. Whether it's a co-parent or a distant family member or a friend's mother, it's best to keep your personal opinions about those people to yourself, and let your child form their own feelings.
Trying To Control Everything They Do
We all want what's best for our kids. We all want to keep them from harm and protect them and encourage them and to never see them hurt, but we can't live their lives for them. When your child is learning to be independent; when they're testing boundaries and developing opinions; when they're learning how to think for themselves, let them. Trying to control every aspect of their life is only going to set them back. It will cripple their ability to think for themselves and thrive on their own, so unless you're okay with them living with you for the rest of their lives, it's best to let them find their own way.
No one sets out with the intention of damaging their children or placing their baggage on their children's shoulders, but sometimes even the best of us get so caught up in our own issues or situations that we don't even realize we're doing damage. But if we just pay attention and be mindful of the way our children perceive us, then we can raise a generation that's going to be a lot better off than we are.