Parents who were wounded in particular ways will be prone to wounding their children in exactly these same ways. A father who was undervalued by his own father is likely to underestimate his son’s worth. A mother whose athletic talents were frustrated is more likely to be overly invested in her daughter’s athleticism. Patterns of unconscious parenting are passed from parent to child until one parent in the line decides to interrupt the legacy and to undertake her own healing.
Think of it this way: You are the wounded child who has grown up to have children of your own. Your wounds are still inside you, although you may not be aware of them. They come out in your relationship with your spouse, and they come out in your relationship with your children. Because you are wounded, you wound your own child by not valuing and accepting him for who he is, just as you were not accepted by your parents for who you are. You may not wound him seriously or often perhaps, but you wound him nonetheless. This is the pattern that will continue until you recognize what you are doing and take conscious steps to do something different.
You can learn to recognize when you are reacting out of your own woundedness. It is happening when you repeatedly react with intensity, usually negatively, to your child’s normal behavior. Your overreaction is a clue that you have encountered what we call a “growth point.” A growth point is a place in the parenting process that is difficult for you. It directs you to some incompleteness or injury in yourself that is a place of potential healing for you.
Your child will teach you about your own healing and about many other things. Most important, of course, she will teach you what you need to do to parent her well. First, you treat her with the same respect with which you would treat someone you thought you could learn from, and then you watch and listen for the message she is sending.
As we have said, children absorb their parents’ level of emotional and moral maturity. More than what the parents say, the child stores how the parents are in the world. This does not mean that parents have to be perfect to raise healthy, well-adjusted children. But it does mean they need to be engaged in the process of becoming conscious—of their children’s needs and their own unmet needs. The fact that they are wrestling with important emotional issues and sharing the process with their children, when it’s appropriate, is more important than how wounded or unwounded they are.
Parents who engage in the process of becoming conscious for the sake of the child will be able to finish their own psychological development and restore their own wholeness. It won’t be easy. There are few models to guide us, because conscious parenting has never been done before. As a species, we are engaged in a new phase in our personal and cultural evolution. A child who sees his parent in the process of becoming a conscious person will be equipped to do the same in his own life and will contribute to the increasing consciousness of our species.
Harville Hendrix and Helen Hunt — Giving the Love that Heals: A Guide for Parents (pp. 34-36)
Parenting is one of the most difficult endeavors we could ever encounter. Our children—by no fault of their own—often bring out the worst in us. We react to them unconsciously due to our own woundedness from our caregivers and we have no idea why. This style of unconscious parenting is certainly the recipe that will continue the long line of wounds passed down from one generation to the next. Without ever asking yourself the question, “How may I be wounding my child with my unconscious parenting?”, you will continue the process and pass along the woundedness that your parents handed down to you.
I must confess, I was stumbling down the road of unconscious parenting for most of my children’s lives. It hasn’t been easy to say the least. However, at some point, I started to wrestle with my own woundedness and truly face the way those wounds played out in my adult life. Eventually, I dropped the notion that parenting was less about me being an authoritarian tyrant and more about all of us learning from one another.
The minute I looked at my children as though they have something to teach me, everything changed!
At that point, I became malleable. The pressure was off. I didn’t have to hold this heavy crown on my head anymore that proved to them I was the boss. Instead, I shed the crown and got down on the floor to play with them. With the weight lifted, I was able to learn from them that there were different ways to live. I certainly wasn’t perfect, but they witnessed me wrestling with important emotional issues and openly striving to become a conscious person. In essence, as I began to love all the different parts of myself—my wounds and all—my children learned they could love all their parts as well.
It’s a long road and there are no quick fixes. But the minute you are able to see your child as your teacher, your relationship will dramatically shift in a hurry. Instead of viewing parenting as an hierarchical authority position, try considering your child sent directly to you from the Universe to help you heal your woundedness. And then, sit back and watch the growth happen. Take the pressure off yourself, we all know you’re not perfect anyway—your child knows it too. Take the crown off and get down on the ground and learn from your child. You’ll be amazed what they can teach you!
Whether you realize it or not—your ability to recognize it makes no difference—you are most likely parenting out of your woundedness and passing down wounds to your child.
It can stop with you!
You can consider a different way to parent, a different way to live. You no longer have to unconsciously go through life wounding those you love. You can wrestle with your wounds and genuinely have an enormous impact on yourself and all your loved ones.
Have a blessed day.
Peace and Love,