You Can Fight Nature & You Can Fight Nurture, But Can You Fight Both at Once?
Celebrating Mother’s & Father’s Day gives us time to think about how grateful we are for all the things our parents do for us. They are amazing and selfless and we appreciate them more and more the older we get, but this doesn’t mean we don’t still cringe when Mom nags you about your hair or Dad tells that same embarrassing joke for the millionth time. So, this month we are ruminating…can we avoid becoming our parents — or is it inevitable?
It’s something we’re all familiar with: The older we get, the more we notice ourselves acting like our parents. You can dread it, you can deny it, but you can’t dodge it. Even the best dancer in the world will, at some point, turn into something resembling a lobster being tasered whenever he attempts to move rhythmically. But is that how it must be? Do you have to react to stress, a joke, or your children in the exact same why you used to hate your own mom or dad for? Here’s what we found.
Why It’s Happening in the First Place
There are lots of theories as to why we eventually succumb to demonic possession by mom and dad but basically, both biological and social interactions lead you to pick up your parents’ characteristics. Much of how we behave is learned at an early age, and scientists say we are programmed to develop through our interactions with others and then follow those established patterns of behavior. To put it simply: Monkey see, monkey do, monkey keep doing.
Why We Hate the Thought of Acting Like Our Parents So Much
Why do even those of us with a good relationship with our parents find this such an acutely offensive idea? In cases where there’s nothing too objectionable about the parents per se, it’s just residual teenage rebellion. We fight it when we’re younger because we’re in a stage of life where we’re trying to separate from our parents and become our own independent selves.
How We Can Stop It from Happening
The good news for those determined to forge a different path to their parents is that it’s possible — but it’s hard work. The trick to breaking the mold is training yourself to be aware of those moments of unwanted emulation, then nudging away from the script. Adding your own personal flourish to habits you’ve picked up from them can have a huge impact on breaking patterns of behavior. A second tactic is to consciously try to pick up other, more positive habits from the humans in your life with whom you don’t share 50 percent of your DNA. Interactions with important people can help us change by offering new interactions that can build new patterns. So, if you don’t like the way your dad handled criticism — and are worried you react the same way — watch someone who handles it well and make careful mental note of what they do. By consciously emulating that behavior for long enough, you will eventually make it habit.
All in all, the parental phantoms etched into us in childhood are hard to drive out completely: Through a mix of nature and nurture, each of us is designed to recreate their parents in some way. It’s six of one and half a dozen of the other, as my father always says.