Experts Reveal How To Overcome Bad Parenting Habits You Learned From Your Own Childhood

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Father and son

There is an old cartoon that demonstrates the cycle of abuse. The boss yells at the worker who goes home to yell at their spouse. The spouse in turn yells at the children, the children yell at the dog, and the dog barks at the cat, and the cat. Well, the cat eats the mouse.

For those who grew up with less-than-ideal parenting, life can feel like being the mouse at the end of the line. When that former mouse of a child becomes a parent themselves, the cycle can be repeated.

When the child of bad parenting is in the position of the parent, they have a critical choice to make. Will they start the ball of abusive behavior rolling down the hill to eventually crush those who are least able to protect themselves at the bottom? Or, will they make the choice to break the cycle?

If you grew up with less-than-ideal parenting, and you are ready and willing to make a change for a better life for yourself and those you love, we have some excellent news. Our experts have your back and are ready to get you unstuck from past conditioning and ready to be refreshed with a few simple tips to break the cycle within yourself.

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Here, Yourtango experts reveal how to overcome bad parenting habits you learned from your own childhood:

1. Interrupt the pattern

Without a focused effort, we can repeat the negative patterns learned in childhood. But, when we are committed to changing a specific habit, we can delete it by using the following steps:

Work on one habit at a time.
Set up accountability.
Reinforce opposite behavior with a positive reward.

For example, when Ruth decided to communicate her feelings directly, she told her family about the effects of her upbringing and encouraged them to "call out" those incidents when she was passive and upset. As she thanked her children and husband, she slowly learned it was safe to be hurt and angry.

She experimented with speaking up and rewarded herself in ways that were important to her.

Reta Walker, Ph.D.

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2. Awareness, education, support, and modeling

Awareness, education, support, and modeling are the keys to overcoming bad parenting habits from our own childhood.

Awareness is the foundation, as it allows us to recognize patterns and behaviors that may have been ingrained in us from our upbringing. Once we identify these habits, education becomes the tool for change, providing us with the knowledge and understanding of effective and healthy parenting practices. This knowledge empowers us to make informed choices and break the cycle of harmful behaviors.

Support is also essential on this journey. Seeking guidance from therapists, support groups, coaches, or even other people who have the parenting habits we want to emulate can provide invaluable emotional support and practical advice.

Lastly, modeling the changes we want to see is critical. As parents, we are the primary role models for our children. By consciously practicing healthy parenting behaviors and emotional regulation, we demonstrate to our children how to navigate challenges, handle emotions, and build loving relationships. Our actions speak volumes, and by modeling the change we wish to see, we create a nurturing environment for our children to thrive while breaking free from the cycle of unhealthy parenting habits.

Blair Nicole CEO, MA in Psychology, Associate Marriage and Family Therapist

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3. Learn to turn the love

In a home with enough unconditional love from a caregiver to a child, it's possible to grow up happy in spite of obstacles.

What we think we want from another is actually a desire to connect to some deeper part of ourselves. Learn to love yourself then turn your love outward to others just as they are, appreciating their special qualities and uniqueness, instead of trying to use them to fill your own sense of not being good enough.

Larry Cappel, LMFT, MA, MFT

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The effects of bad parenting do not have to continue in infinite loop mode for you, your children, grandchildren, and on into the distant future. You can interrupt the patterns by first becoming aware of the problem, then with support and conscious effort, you can stop repeating the mistakes of your parents. You only have negative patterns to lose and nothing to gain but more love!

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Will Curtis is an associate editor at Yourtango.