It appears to me that I often repeat my parents' mistakes, in raising my children, in interacting with my spouse, and in providing all of them feed-backs (often positive ones, but sometime quite negative ones).

These may include, on the bad side, pushing for too much discipline or preferring one of the kids versus the others, and being overly competitive with my spouse. On the good side, instead, I succeed in fostering cohesion between the kids and empowering them with appropriate responsibilities despite being quite young, while leaving ample autonomy and freedom to my spouse.

How can I reduce the likelihood of repeating my parents' mistakes, given that most of such repetitions are based on inconscious imprinting?

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    Given that you're aware of your parents'mistakes, you can take solace in the probability that you won't repeat your parents' mistakes, and will instead make different mistakes that are entirely your own. I guess whether that's comforting or not is a matter of perspective. Dec 10, 2016 at 0:46
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    Very good question.
    – Carsten S
    Dec 10, 2016 at 13:20
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    Write out all the mistakes your parents made. Write out all the mistakes you repeated. Put it on paper so you remember. Dec 13, 2016 at 4:19
  • @ShayminGratitude: This is an extremely interesting suggestion. Why don't you expand so that it qualifies as an answer? Dec 13, 2016 at 11:27

6 Answers 6


If you're aware of the mistakes, and conscious of when you make them, that's a big step already. The next step is to develop alternatives, and have them ready, so that as soon as you recognize a behaviour that you don't want to be doing, you pull out the alternative.

Let's say your parents always smacked you on the cheek when you did something wrong. Perhaps you have unconsciously begun doing the same with your children. Decide on an alternative response (put them in a timeout chair, yell (not ideal, but better than hitting), laugh, give yourself a timeout, etc.). Have that decision made ahead of time. Then, as soon as you feel the urge to smack them, employ your alternate strategy instead. Since you've planned it ahead of time, you don't have to think about it; it's already ready to go.

Or maybe you've got into a bad habit of yelling at your spouse when they don't behave the way you expect. Ahead of time, think of a better way of responding, and then when you find yourself about to yell (or already yelling), employ your alternate strategy.

It's not a foolproof strategy, and there will be times that you are too worked up to even think about your alternate strategies, but hopefully as you continue to employ them as much as possible, they will start to become ingrained and natural.

It sounds like you're fairly introspective and insightful, in that you've been able to recognize your own undesirable behaviours. Use that insight to continue to evaluate your strategies and determine what is working and what is not. Remember that there is nothing wrong with anger; it's just how you express it that is important. Also recognize that change takes time; you can't expect to become a different person overnight.


This is an extremely common scenario; the default mode is to parent the way we were parented. If that wasn't the ideal, you have to come up with a better one.

Give a lot of thought to how you want to parent and why (the "why" will come in handy.) Then practice, practice, practice. When you're calm, rested, etc., it's easier. But when you're surprised, stressed, tired, or other, you're likely to fall back onto your default position.

In that case, apologize to your child and explain why you were wrong to do what you did (this is where the "why" comes in.) If they're old enough (which is pretty early), you can discuss what kind of parent you want to be and why. The more you practice and explain, the more it will be possible to do what you want to do. Enlisting your spouse's support helps. The key is to truly be willing to change.

The same principles apply with your spouse.

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    Previous generations may have seen apologies as a sign of weakness. An honest apology models how we LEARN from mistakes and TRY to do better, that we CHANGE throughout life and REFLECT on relationships and values. When the child misbehaves help him or her to say "Sorry," & identify what went wrong. CHOICES have an impact on people. When a child apologized, help move to "a happy path," let go, move on, compliment the child on being honest & kind to apologize, smart to learn from a poor choice. I'm glad to see this good answer and the original question come up. Dec 20, 2016 at 1:32

I am a teen, so I think that I may have some authority on this given that my father is gone and my mom has mental disorders. Not a sob story, just giving reason as to why I believe I have authority. I have also gone to therapy and I have learned many things. One of the most important things that was enforced at therapy was that "You are in control of yourself" (not including the obvious deductions; mental disorders, trauma reactions...). If you are thinking "Yeah, I know, now tell me something new", the something new is that not very many people acknowledge this truth, and many try to make excuses. I cannot say that I did this bad thing because I had a bad upbringing. But I can say I did this good thing because my upbringing taught me what I don't want to do. I hope you do not disregard this just because I am a teen. Thank you for reading.

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    Welcome Ger Foe. I agree with you that we are in control of ourselves and that we can change if we decide to. We can't change others, at best we only influence them.
    – WRX
    Dec 10, 2016 at 15:38
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    I very much like the outlook that the only person we can really change is ourself. We are in control of how we respond, and sometimes getting help to learn new ways is a great book and evidence of tremendous self-respect and strength. Good on you! Dec 20, 2016 at 1:34

My best advice is to try to teach yourself to stop and think for a few seconds before you react. If you react immediately, you do not have a chance to think about what you want.

It sounds to me like you already know what you think should happen. That is good.

How about changing one thing? You might want to explain it to your family in advance. I suggest you put up your hand in the stop position. Tell them that it means you are not stopping them; you are taking a moment to think but that you will respond.

That gives you a few seconds to remember how you want to react, and the kind of person you wish to be.

I admire that you are trying so hard to be your best at parenting.


Read books on child development and effective parenting methods. It's really not enough to say "I don't want to be like my parents" you need to say "I want to parent this way" so that when it's 3 am and the kid won't stop screaming you have a plan. Also, equally important, talk to your partner, about your thoughts and opinions, so you can get on the same page.


Writing it out can be an effective means of collecting your thoughts on many issues, and I think it can be helpful here.

First, I would suggest some free writings. In a free writing, you just get a piece of paper and write out every thought that comes into your head. So, get a piece of paper and write about what you disliked about your parents' parenting style, write about what mistakes you keep repeating, and write out how you would prefer to handle things.

Secondly, you'll want to solidify your ideas. Use the free writings and come up with some lists of things you won't do and things you will do. You'll likely want to type these out on a computer and then print them. You'll want to display the paper somewhere where you'll see it everyday, perhaps in your bedroom. You now have a physical reminder of how you want to do things. I believe that solidifying your ideas into a sort of pledge will be more effective in actually effecting a change in your behavior.

You could also share the paper and the rules with your children if you want. I couldn't say one way or another whether that's a good idea. It probably depends on the temperament of the children. Best case scenario would be that they help you enforce the pledge. Worst case would be that they hold it over your head to their own advantage.

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