Getting Down to the Roots

For the parent(s)

Sooner or later, every parent unconsciously imitates his or her own parents— both the things we liked and the things we disliked. Thinking about this ahead of time can be very helpful down the line. Make a list for each of your parents of three behaviors you would like to emulate and three you would like to avoid: for example, "I loved it when mom/dad was playful," or "I got really scared by mom's/dad's outbursts of anger."

Share this list with your parenting partner(s). Talk about how you would like to handle these issues. For example, if some day you are hypercritical of one of your kids, would you want your co-parent to take you aside later, and say something like, "Did you really want to be so hard on Tom? I was reminded of what you said about how you felt like you could never live up to your parents' standards."

If you are a single parent, check the list now and then to see if there is a comfortable match between your parenting ideals and the reality.

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