Why We Defend Our Less Than Perfect Parents

I would like to say at this point that no parent is a perfect parent.Everyone tends to parent as they were parented, good or bad. Thats the only “manual” for some. However, what is often forgotten is how sensitive children are to the environment around them. An environment created by parents and consolidated by the parenting style chosen. In this environment, children develop and carry any issues forward into adulthood. That word there, little criticism there, that lack of attention and supervision through to outright neglect and abuse will have an effect on the way a child sees the world and more importantly, how he/she views herself/himself.

One thing often forgotten is the way children generally view their parents. Children do not have the reasoning skills to determine what a good or bad parent is. Comparison only comes later when they identify more with peers and notice differences in the treatment of their friends by their parents. Up until this point, children often see their parents as “god-like”. This is thought to be the case even if parenting is extremely toxic. They simply cannot fathom that these “gods” would say or do anything that could be wrong, insulting or abusive. They believe that what they say and do is correct and can be justified it is them who said and did it. We all had this feeling in childhood that they knew what they were doing, only to come to the realisation later that they clearly didn’t. It cannot be stressed enough the responsibility that comes with parenting. We will all make mistakes but learning the basics of child development and the effects of ineffective parenting will certainly help.

The consequence of the above is that children believe everything that is done to them and said to them is their fault and these “perfect” people beat them, abuse them, ignore them, neglect them because they are bad. Children carry this idea forward into adulthood and into every future relationship they have. In therapy, they justify their parent’s actions, even the worst, by claiming they “deserved” it or their parents “were keeping them in line” or “they did the best they could”. They still hold the image of “god-like” parents who could do no wrong.

Imagine the scenario that a child growing into an adult goes into a relationship believing they are “bad” or “wrong”. Children, under the best of circumstances, develop primitive defence mechanisms and behaviour when they feel their security is at risk. Under abusive and neglectful circumstances, these are extreme. Whatever the severity, children will do their level best to be liked or loved by their parents or they will withdraw completely. These mechanisms turn into the way we think and behave as adults, namely Thinking Parts. Often in conflict, in adult relationships, we are transported back to earlier times through being triggered, often behaving in the same way.

Breaking the link with past dysfunction is never easy and is often ingrained in us in forms of habitual behaviour and automatic reactions that we often regret later. This is often consolidated by parents who either deny or justify their influence when asked later, placing the responsibility back on the child. However, awareness is a great thing and once that is found, effective measures can be taken to help.

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Dr. Nicholas Jenner

Dr. Nicholas Jenner is a counseling psychotherapist in online private practice working with individuals, couples and groups, dealing with codependency issues, severe depression, bipolar, personality disorders, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders and other mental health issues. He has been practicing online for many years and recognized early that online therapy was a convenient method for people to meet their therapist. Working outside the box, he goes that extra mile to make sure clients have access to help between sessions, something that is greatly appreciated. He also gives part of his spare time up to mentor psychology students in a university setting.

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Chey

    How very true. Abuse doesn’t have to be physical in any way. I think for those of us who have a reasonable intellect making the excuses for other, real or imagined reasons, can be even more difficult to erase in our minds.