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When You Say It Right (But Things Still Go Wrong)

You Overly Identify with Your Children

If your child is experiencing some difficulty that you once experienced, your background may help you understand -- but it might also interfere. If you presume too much, you may stop listening to your child and miss some key elements of his concerns. For example, Fred was shy as a child, and he knew that his son, Danny, was shy, too. Not wanting Danny to feel bad about being shy (as Fred once did), Fred gave Danny encouraging pep talks but never really listened to any of his son's concerns. As a result, Danny was reluctant to talk to his father about the issue. Some parents are so convinced that their child is "just like me" that they overrule their spouse's opinions about the child, thereby setting the stage for spousal resentment.

In the book Parenting by Heart, psychologist Ron Taffel says that over-identification means you are reacting to your child but not truly connecting. Consequently, parenting may become more complicated because you think you know what is best when in fact you might not. You have to consider the possibility that you are not being objective. Ask for opinions from trusted friends or loved ones.

You Say, "I Never Want to Be Like My Parents!"

The more adamant you are about this, the more it usually backfires. For example, if your parents were frequently angry and you want to avoid feeling angry, you may become an ineffective disciplinarian. (Predictably, your spouse will be stricter, and you will yell at him for being harsh when in fact he is only balancing out the system.) If your parents were inattentive, you will want to give your children attention -- but you may overdo it. Thus, your kids may become more dependent, or you may feel overwhelmed with time and work pressures, but feel afraid to limit your time with the kids. (It's okay to do that sometimes. Kids need to learn patience and self-sufficiency.) Or you'll spend lots of time with the kids but have no time left over for yourself or your mate. It's funny but true: The parents who didn't raise you properly were trying to overcome factors present when their parents didn't raise them properly. If you take matters to extremes, you will lose perspective and effectiveness.


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