Knowing Your Inner Parent (Internalized Parent)
A child’s first stint with society is through its family. In that way, that’s the child’s first interaction with the social environment, a sort of blueprint of relationships. Therefore, the way we perceive and respond to the world as adults is determined, to a large extent, by what we experienced as children. Parenting, then, plays a primary role in our mental make-ups.
Psychology points out that we have an internalized parent inside that sets the tone of our self-talk. Unfortunately, often it is the voice of an overcritical mother who keeps telling us we’re not good enough, or an unavailable father implying that our needs are not important. This leads to the creations of negative, self-sabotaging beliefs in our psyche.
Types of Parenting
Psychology professor Dr. Daniel Storage explains parenting styles based on a two-dimensional structure: warmth (love) and control (structure).
Authoritative – High Warmth, High Control
This is parenting as a two-way street. The parent sets the order in their child’s day but is also reasonable, and listens to the child’s point of view. This parent is also known as a consultant parent.
This type leads to the best outcomes being emotionally sane and calm, successful adults.
Authoritarian – Low Warmth, High Control
This is parenting as a dictatorship. The parent sets non-negotiable limits upon the child and expresses little to no warmth. This parent is also known as “Drill Sergeant Parent”. Some helicopter parents may fall under this category.
This type shapes children who perform well academically but are generally anxious and unhappy.
Permissive – High Warmth, Low Control
This is parenting as chaos. The parent sets no boundaries for the children and gives in to every demand of the child, trying to be “the cool friend” to their child.
Children struggle with impulse control and lack self-discipline. They often indulge in risky behaviors such as drug and sex abuse.
Uninvolved – Low Warmth, Low Control
This is parenting as non-present. The parent is neglectful and unresponsive to the child’s demands. They basically adopt a couldn’t-care-less attitude towards the development of the child. So, except for the basic needs of survival, the child is on their own.
Their children turn out fearful and socially withdrawn adults. They also perform poorly in school and lack self-esteem.
* Two-dimensional structure by Dr. Daniel Storage. There are cultural overlaps, especially between Authoritative and Authoritarian parenting styles. Asian cultures believe in Authoritarian parenting and the children mostly turn out as successful adults.
Mirroring: How We Internalize Parenting
While science agrees that a lot of our mannerisms are hereditary, it is also widely accepted that children unconsciously mirror and model their parents. Mirroring is an unconscious mimicking of a parent’s actions, such as when a baby looks in the direction the mother looks or points to. Modeling is a more intentional cognitive behavior where the child copies the parent’s moods and mannerisms, such as a child copying the tone of the parent, or doing chores in the same manner as their parent.
Why? Because a child’s self-concept is closely related to his parent’s perception of him. So, before we can truly understand and accept ourselves, we need someone else to validate us. Usually, this person is our parent who is the ultimate authority for a child. And how better to achieve this than to mirror the parent’s actions and behavior?
A natural corollary that emerges is that we have internalized our parenting even in the relationship we have with ourselves. If they were too harsh on us, we are too harsh on ourselves. If they had impossibly high standards, we struggle with feeling “not up to the mark”. If they terrified us, we end up being terrified of most people we meet as adults.
Inner Child Work Exercise
Gauge your parents’ inner child.
Start journaling about your parents: their qualities that you love, and things they do that drive you mad. This can lead you to understanding their parenting style.
Separately, if you can, talk to your parents and find out about their childhood. This will help you gain a larger-than-life perspective about your parents, as you will begin to view them as individuals who were guided by the unmet needs of their “inner child”.
Tomorrow, we will talk about forgiving parents.
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