As a group speaker, I have met many families over the years. It’s so fun to have someone approach me at the grocery store or mall and say “I enjoyed your presentation; I even bought the book that you read” or “thanks for talking about the challenges of being a new parent”.
While the adjustments and play and reading topics have their unique rewards, I am especially energized and rewarded when I speak with families about “Our Past and Parenting”.What does this mean exactly? To put it simply: we learn a great deal from our parents and recognizing this comes to light especially when we become parents ourselves. Then, with a little insight, we can make decisions about what we learned. Did we learn what TO do or what NOT to do? It’s usually a combination of both.
Don’t Depend on the Default Button
I first heard this term used by Roger McFail with Oakland Family Services to describe the action we often take as parents. It’s a tendency to lean toward what is familiar, or in other words: “That’s what my parents did and I turned out fine.”
Does that make it right? Is this what I really want to do? What about my partner? What did his/her parents do? And is there agreement?
The default button can also be a response that is immediate and unplanned, which can sometimes cause regret, such as a spanking or yelling. Angry responses seldom resolve issues. In fact, they create more.
So take some time together to talk about how you were parented. Recall mealtime, holidays, how you played, and family trips. Be sure to include discipline, and how conflict was handled. Sometimes the memories are difficult and painful. But when we recall and recognize, we can then make positive choices. And this is incredibly valuable as you come together to create a strong healthy family.
—Betsy Clancy MA, LPC, Beaumont Parenting Program Group Coordinator