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I sound like my parents
Angry old couple sitting in living room woman pointing

OMG – I Sound Just Like My Parents

I am sure you have heard some of these:

“If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?”

“Stop crying or I’ll really give you something to cry about!”

“Wait until your father get’s home!” 

“Eat the things on your plate – you are lucky to have food. There are starving people in China.”

There are some things that just fall out of our mouths – then we realize – OMG, I sound just like my parents. This is the one thing we all promised ourselves when we heard these “gems” – that we would never say these things. And then we do. Again and again.

We try not to. We become intentional noticing what we say until some child just puts us in that “place” – that, “If I didn’t love you and the neighbors weren’t watching I would leave you on the corner.” Okay, something all parent say – well, maybe something that just my parents said to me.  Our kids push us to the limit of our sanity and then our parents words come tumbling out of our mouths.

Why We Say What Our Parents Said

So in one view, we say these things because we learned them from our parents and they worked for them. So, if it works, use it. Perhaps just review your repertoire of parent catch phrases and choose those that will have the needed impact on your kids. Keep those in your active file. Let some of the old and dated ones go because they get more a laugh than the intended or hoped-for response.

In the other view, what parent scripting in your head needs to be replaced with a more present and mindful approach? Instead of defaulting into what you have heard other parents say and do, could you be tuned in to the situation, manage your emotions and judgement long enough to gather some information and consider your options? With greater attention to what is happening in the situation and to your emotions, you could respond in the moment instead of defaulting to your parenting quips and scrips – which are less effective.

What To Say Instead

So maybe replace “If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?” with “What do you think the impact on you (your safety, health, etc.) would be if you acted like this (whatever the situation is)?” – asked calmly, directly and intentionally.

“Stop crying or I’ll really give you something to cry about!” could shift to, “I need to understand what you are upset about because I can’t help you through all the tears. What could you do to calm down so we can talk about this?” – asked calmly, directly and intentionally.

Notice when you sound like your parents – when your parent’s parenting becomes your default. Do their words just come falling out of you? What if instead, you stopped, thought about the situation, considered other options then chose one you think would have a better outcome? To do this, you have to tap into your inner zen – that means that you have to be able to stay calm, listen for information and choose wisely from the options. Only then can you create your own great parenting phrases that someday your kids will inherit. But this time, your phrases will be calm, wise and mindful – not reactionary statements delivered in frustration.

About Jay Forte

Jay Forte is a family, teen, career and mindfulness coach, author, motivational speaker and nationally ranked Thought Leader. He helps parents learn how to guide, support and coach their kids to discover, develop and live who they really are - to help them be ready for life.

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12 comments

  1. Haha, I am in that age exactly and even if I try to be the cool dad the fact is we love our kids too much, we want the best for them and we have forgotten what it is to be wild and young, so we always tend to over protect them. Speaking in a calm way certainly helps though. 🙂

  2. I found, when my daughter was a teen, that I used the same sort of fussy-mumsy things my mum used to say to me. The most notable ones being “You’re not out like that are you?” and (indoors) “Take your coat off or you won’t feel the benefit when you go out again.”

    That last one might have been my grandma ….

  3. Well, I’m not a parent yet and I’m not sure if I want to be one, but you made me giggle a little bit with those typical parents’ statements, I have been told basically all of them repeatedly when I was a little boy! And I think that I can say that I haven’t say them yet, but you really have a point, to be honest, those statements were really scary and while you were hearing them you could only expect the worst thing… I think that it would be psychologically healthier to softer them up as you just mentioned.

  4. The issue is that with parenthood comes responsibility as we want the best for our kids and from experience we know what’s going to happen. The issue is that kids want to learn by themselves, like we did… 🙂

  5. I’m not too sure that I mind at all sounding like my parents. They always had really smart things to say and some very good advice. I turned out ok. And as much as we might like to think that things have changed, I find that a lot of things actually stay the same when it comes to parenting…

    • My thoughts exactly! I’d find it quite a compliment if someone told me I sounded just like my mom – a lot of the things she said when I was little still ring very true today, even if it took me a decade or so to realize it! And now having chosen to become a vegan of my own free will, I realize I could have saved a lot of time if I’d started eating my veggies back then when she told me to… Sigh.

  6. Growing up in the 90’s, I heard all of those things, especially like how if I didn’t clean my plate it was an insult to starving children elsewhere in the world. I think the thing with kids is they don’t really think like that until they DO get older and start talking like their parents. I don’t think I started parroting my mother until I was a teenager and was care-giving my younger sister frequently. Of course, young children don’t see consequences the same way older kids and adults do. But’s hard to remember that in the moment and useful to have a reminder.

  7. The things parents say are passed along like folktales, I swear! Some of these sayings have been along for countless decades, but a lot of them are honestly kind of harmful in my opinion. It’s true that we do need to think about what we say instead of simply saying it because that’s how WE were raised. Things like “I’ll give you something to cry about” come across as blatantly threatening, and to me, that’s not beneficial to any child.

  8. I have no issues sounding like my parents either because after all it’s just the voice of experience speaking, the voice of who has lived more and wants the best for our kids. It’s the cycle of life!

  9. Well this is something that I am pretty sure everyone on Earth has noticed about themselves at one point or another. Mine always seems to come out in certain phrases, even ones that I swore I would never say, and then sure enough there I am using them without even thinking. I guess it is to be expected, though, and we cannot say that we were not warned. I saw it with my folks and I am sure people are seeing it with me, but I guess I just need to accept it. Thanks for sharing.

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