Reparenting means parenting yourself all over again, in the direction you would like yourself to head in the future. As a grown-up, your inner child is active within you. The behavior, thoughts, and feelings of this inner child is a result of your upbringing.
Your inner child is the part of your personality that still feels and reacts like a child. Your subconscious is formed by your childhood. The thoughts and feelings in your subconscious are influenced by the kind of upbringing you had.
For example, the feeling of self-worth which I discussed earlier, could result from the kind of subconscious and affects the person you are today. Much of what we struggle with in our adulthood is based on issues in our childhood.
While it is important to move on and forge the life we want, having unresolved issues from our childhood can affect us today. We often feel the need to leave what’s in the past right there where it belongs, in the past.
Going back to childhood can be difficult and many choose to let it be. However, it is through confronting your childhood that you understand why we behave the way we do and choose to start afresh and behave better as adults. This is termed as reparenting.
Knowingly and unknowingly, our childhood highly influences the person we are today. I have discussed how addressing your childhood is an important step towards developing self-awareness. You can only become fully aware of who you are when you fully understand your childhood and how it has influenced the person you are today.
Our childhood issues commonly root from our parents. Our parents are the first people we interact with when we grow up. In fact, up about 6 months, a baby thinks they are the same person with their parent. Our parents are our first connection to the rest of the world.
When a child is picking up the ways of the world, they learn from the parents. The person you are today is largely dependent on the kind of parenting you received. Sometimes it’s not entirely our parents’ fault that we experienced some challenges growing up.
They probably parented the best way they knew how, but somehow it had some effect on us. Their level of self-awareness was probably limited, and they probably thought that they were giving you the best they could.
Different parents lead to different behavior in children. Inner child wounds are a result of a child behaving in a way that affected a child’s thinking and behavior and this has manifested to the adult.
A critical parent, for example, leads to a child that is a constant critic. This person cannot think they do anything right and they are constantly criticizing themselves and expecting perfection from themselves. Being too hard on themselves can lead to a dissatisfying life where this person is never content. This is the same result seen in a child who had a disapproving parent.
Constant disapproval from parents leads to a defensive character and being afraid of judgment. This person will constantly feel that they are not enough since whatever they do will never be enough for the parents. A pessimistic parent leads to adults that easily self-sabotage since they believe they don’t deserve good things.
Unavailable parents create kids with an inability to understand and express emotions. When a child is abandoned by the parent, they develop a constant fear of being left and will cling into a relationship no matter how bad, because they can’t stand the idea of being left again.
An abandoned child leads to an adult that hates being alone, becomes codependent in a relationship and often attracted to unemotionally available people just like the parents. The people they attract add to their suffering since the more they live with unemotionally unavailable people, the more they strive to make them available.
At the same time, someone that was abandoned also has a constant need to threaten to abandon as well, and they do so with their partner and this can lead to a very unhealthy relationship.
The guilt-tripping parent creates a child that often feels guilt and apologizes all the time. Some parents make their children feel guilty by showing them as if they are the cause of the problems they are going through. They make the child think that it’s the child’s fault that they are not living the life they desire.
In the case of a divorce, for example, a parent can show the child that the other parent left because of the child’s fault. This child ends up to be an adult that is in constant fear of burdening others and attract people that make them guilty.
They use guilt as a weapon as well and will commonly manipulate others to feel guilty and have trouble setting boundaries.
Children need to trust their parents and feel safe with them. When a parent appears as unreliable to the child, a child forms trust issues. Trust wounds create children and manifest to adults that are afraid of getting hurt and don’t trust themselves and others.
If a child feels that they cannot trust their parent, they become insecure and don’t feel safe. They have a problem forming trust with others and tend to be attracted to people they can’t trust.
If a child senses neglect from a parent, this affects their self-worth. They think they are undeserving of love and that they are not enough. They struggle to let things go because they don’t know the next time they will have something nice.
They repress their emotions and are afraid of being vulnerable since they are afraid exposing their feelings will only get them more hurt. They manifest into an adult that forms unhealthy attachments for fear of abandonment and are emotionally available.
Too much strict and controlling parents often lead to rebelliousness. When a child feels that they don’t have any free will at all, they will more likely to rebel in an effort to become more independent. As an adult, such a person may find that they have little regard for rules and discipline. They see rules and structures as stifling and strive to get away from them.
The opposite of controlling parents are coddling parents. When a parent spoils a child or gives too much into their demands, this child can become entitled. Lack of rules, common in coddling parents, leads to children who lack discipline.
The children feel that they should always get their way and don’t do well with rules.We cannot always be victims of our past. We need to find ways to forge forward.
We should not always be victims of our past. We need to find ways to forge forward. The first step towards reparenting is to identify areas that were largely affected by your childhood.
Is it that you have low self-worth or low discipline? Is it that you find yourself in the wrong kind of relationships and you would like to break that trend? Here are some areas of reparenting you can focus on;
Having parents that didn’t set rules and required you to abide by them can lead to a lack of self-discipline. Some parents want to please their children and give them everything they want, and this means giving in every time the child threw some tantrums.
Having parents that were too soft on you can also affect your discipline. Sometimes you need a firm hand to get to do what you should be doing. On the extreme end, parents that were too strict can also result in a rebellious child who would do anything else but follow the roles.
When such people become adults, they take advantage of freedom and instead choose not to have any rules in their life, since they had too many rules. This also affects their discipline and they lack self-regulation.
Reparenting yourself, in this case, calls for learning self-discipline as an adult. You have to teach yourself to wake up early (if you need to), go to bed at certain times, and motivate yourself to work or go to the gym.
You need to stop seeing discipline not as an iron fist (if your childhood was too strict) and not as an indication that you are loved less (if your parents were too coddling) and see it as something necessary for your productivity.
In the book Grit: The power of passion and persistence, Angela Duckworth shows that in order to grow grit in children, parents need to create a balance of being demanding and being supportive at the same time.
This balance helps the child do what is required of them, but know that they have the support of their parents and therefore discipline doesn’t mean that they are loved any less.
Many of us heard the phrase ‘don’t be selfish’ quite often when we were growing up. Sure, being taught to share was a good thing, but being told not to be selfish taught us that we need to always put other people first and ourselves last.
When we become grownups, we learn that people are not always nice, and sometimes you will put other people first and they will take advantage of you.
Reparenting yourself is constantly reminding yourself that putting yourself first is not selfish and it does not make you a bad person. It is constantly reminding yourself that you can say no and still be a good person. I wrote about how this is one of the things we need to unlearn.
Neglect as a child can lead to low self-worth. I have discussed this under how to get back your self-worth. No child is born thinking that they don’t matter, they are not enough, and they are not important.
However, as they grow and their subconscious starts recording things, they associate neglect with not being important. This affects their self-worth. They are afraid of being burdensome and will apologize all the time even when they are not on the wrong.
Lack of self-worth in adulthood results in behaviors such as being people-pleasing, needing other people to validate them, forming unhealthy attachments and finding it hard to say no. people with low self-worth attract people that don’t appreciate them and yet they feel that they need validation from these persons.
Reparenting yourself to become more worthy calls for confronting your past. You need to develop an understanding of what in your childhood led you to think that you are not worthy and how you can fill that gap. Find a healthy way to come into terms with your childhood.
When confronting your childhood in the wrong way, it can lead to dependencies such as on drugs, alcohol or the wrong kind of relationships to fill this gap. However, if you discuss this with a friend or a therapist and get to the bottom of it, you can slowly reparent yourself and build your self-worth.
Having critical or disapproving parents can make you become too hard on yourself. You find that you are constantly seeking perfection and will accept nothing less. As a healthy individual, you now understand that seeking perfection is not good for you.
It will deny you the ability to be content and grateful. Reparenting yourself will call for you telling yourself it is ok to let go once in a while and relax. It will call for you not being too hard on achieving perfection but accepting that failure is part of the process.
Reparenting yourself also involves helping yourself find joy. Disapproving and overly controlling parents can make you feel guilty about pleasure. You have a challenge finding joy in the things you like especially if they don’t meet their approval.
Comments such as ‘you are still playing that guitar of yours? It will never take you anywhere, you know!’ Such comments can lead you to not find joy in doing something you love such as playing the guitar. You play it because you love it not necessarily because you want to make a career out of it.
Learn to find joy without feeling guilty for it. Learn to be spontaneous, playful, and creative and be present.
Fear of abandonment comes from abandonment by parents. Adults that were abandoned as children have a tough time forming healthy relationships. They tend to form an unhealthy attachment with people they relate to and often become codependent.
It’s possible to attach to the wrong kind of relationships since they can’t stand being alone. If this is you, you need to reparent yourself into getting over this fear. You need to assure yourself that you are a sufficient and enough individual and you don’t need another person to validate you.
Creating a strong sense of identity as a unique individual and not expecting others to validate you will make you become an independent spirit and comfortable with being by yourself. This way, no one can threaten to hurt you by abandoning you.
When a parent used emotional manipulation on you, you will likely use the same with others. This includes threatening to leave, making them feel guilty all the time, and withholding emotions when needed.
An emotionally unavailable parent can lead to the child in you thinking that when you disapprove of someone, you withdraw emotionally.
As a result, you emotionally withdraw from people around you when they have done you wrong, rather than confront them and find a way to resolve your issues.
Now that we have looked at the different ways your parenting may have affected your inner child, and different areas that are affecting and require reparenting, let’s look at how you can reparent yourself. Develop a healthier inner child and a better functional human.
Explore the wounded child in you with a friend or with a therapist. Explore what hurts you that resulted from your childhood. If you come from a broken home, talk about it and how it made you feel. If one of your parents left, talk about it and how it makes you feel.
Try to understand how this affects you today. Talking it out has its share of benefits. First, you realize that your situation is not as bad as you may have thought. Some things feel like monsters when they are inside our heads but once we name them they stop being so scary. Secondly, speaking about it removes stigma and shame from the experience.
When we hide something that hurts us, we give it more power to hurt us. On the other hand, talking about it undresses the shame and it is no longer shameful. People who talk about their hurtful experiences have an easier time healing from these experiences.
Identify the areas that are affected by your wounded child. How is your current life being affected by your parenting? Do you have trouble forming healthy relationships? Do you have trouble being disciplined and can hardly keep a job or motivate yourself to get things done?
Do you have trouble with rules and feel an uncontrolled desire to break them? The only way to heal is to identify how your past is affecting your present so you can take a step towards healing. A friend to me ‘you have to heal the girl to become the woman you want to be’. Identify the areas in your life that are suffering and try to relate how your childhood is affecting you.
Make a list of the things that you need to change. You can only address that which you can see. For example, if your parents were not strict enough, you could be struggling with discipline. Write down the areas in which you would like to become more disciplined.
If you were abandoned by a parent you could suffer from developing unhealthy relationships or fear abandonment in such a way that you fear commitments. Write this down and identify it as an area that you would like to improve.
Once you have identified these areas and listed them down, develop some affirmations that you need to remind yourself so you can self-correct.
Reparenting affirmations are such as;
- I am worthy and I need to remember this
- I can take charge of my life and develop self-discipline
- My past does not define me
- Just because my parent was (insert accordingly) doesn’t mean I have to be
- It’s not my fault that my parent left
- My parents were struggling with their own challenges and it didn’t have anything to do with me
- I can become a better person
- I am not a failure just because someone said so
Depending on your situation, write down affirmations on how you can break free from your past and create the life that you want. Picture what you want to break free from and remind yourself good things that will lead you to become the person that you want to be
Learn to catch yourself when you are going back to old behaviors and ask yourself, what can I do differently? If you find yourself falling into old habits, catch yourself before you go down the drain.
If you are working on improving your self-worth, which was damaged by disapproving parents, catch yourself when you start thinking negative thoughts and steer your mind towards positive thinking.
Successful reparenting will not happen overnight. It may take you a long time to completely recover and become the person you want to be. If you wait for a complete turnaround, it may take a long time and you could get discouraged.
Celebrate small changes by recognizing every time you have made a small change in the right direction. If a few days have gone by and you haven’t had self-deprecating thoughts, celebrate this small win and work towards having longer days without such thoughts.
It’s true your parenting may not have been perfect. However, if you blame your bad behavior and habits on your parenting all the time, you are shifting blame. You fail to take responsibility for your life. Don’t blame your parents for your problems.
Recovering and reparenting yourself is not about blaming others for all the things going awry in your life. Instead, it is about deciding your life is your own, your past does not define you and you take charge of your life. You choose the future you want and take charge of creating the life you want.