We Learn What We Live
We learn to be who we are, in part by imitating the behavior of others. Children naturally copy their caregivers’ behavior. The child’s tendency is part of our natural survival instincts. Unfortunately, children are not selective in what they learn from their caregivers. They will copy both good and bad behavior.
Dysfunctional caregivers, who model for their children’s dysfunctional behavior, often trigger a behavioral chain reaction that can have explosive consequences for the entire family. The caregivers will invariably blame their children for the children’s bad behavior. Children will subconsciously accept this blame and their self-esteem will be devastated by it. By refusing all responsibility for their children’s behavior, caregivers compound their children’s problems. After all, their children know the truth about their caregivers, but their caregivers persist in pretending that their secret is well hidden. This type of caregiver denial breeds rage and self-hate in their children, whose emerging adolescence intensifies everyone’s pain. The truth is that your caregivers acted the way they did, not because you were “bad,” but because they were unhappy with themselves.
Like the old saying about all monkeys doing what they see, it’s the same with young children. Unfortunately, most dysfunctional parents are unable to see that. As teens begin to enter adolescence how they escape their realities transforms.
I started to learn how my parents numbed their fragile emotions: substance abuse—it quickly became a way of life for me. As a result, teens begin to conclude if it worked for their caregivers, then it will work for them.
The goal of the caregiver should be to empower their children. A display of learned helplessness will only breed resentment and failure. It is imperative for caregivers to function the same way in which they hope their children to act.
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