Skip to Content

5 Tips On How To Not Be Like Your Parents

At some point in our childhood, we’ve all promised ourselves that we would never treat our own children the way we were treated. However, when we became parents, our perspective shifted.

We began to understand why our own parents made certain choices, and our priorities changed as we moved from being the child to the caregiver. 

Parents must consider more factors in their decision-making than children.

Unfortunately, a change in perspective sometimes led us to do things that even a child knew were not right such as yelling at or hitting our kids.

Understanding parenting challenges and responsibilities do not excuse the mistreatment of children. Most of us know this, but we just don’t know how else to parent because that’s the only parenting style we’ve experienced.

There is a fear that if we don’t do what people have done for generations, we will risk raising a problem child or, worse, a failure.

mother reads a book with daughter on the couch

Break The Cycle Of Childhood Trauma

Not everyone desires to parent differently than their own parents, and that’s completely acceptable.

But for those who have experienced childhood trauma and wish to break the trauma cycle, there is hope.

It is possible to break away from the negative patterns of the past by making conscious and deliberate parenting choices.

With the right mindset and tools, anyone can choose to parent in a way that prioritizes the well-being and happiness of their children​1​.

We Can Parent Differently

Parenting differently requires us to think differently.

Thirty years ago, when I first heard someone put a camera in a phone, I thought that person was absurd. A phone was for talking. No one would use it to take pictures, a waste of resources.

Today, few of us will buy a phone without it.

Just as the idea of putting a camera in a phone was deemed ridiculous thirty years ago, our preconceived notions about parenting can limit our options. 

When we think differently and creatively, new possibilities emerge.

If we allow new ideas and approaches, we can improve upon past experiences and open ourselves up to plenty of opportunities for more effective and positive parenting.

We don’t have to be confined by the notion that if we don’t repeat certain behaviors, we will somehow ruin our kids.

How To Parent Differently Than Our Parents

Pick a parenting goal

Parenting is about making tradeoffs in our daily lives to meet our parenting goals. There is no perfect way to parent because there is no perfect life or people.

But parents are often greedy.

As parents, we have numerous aspirations for our children: good behavior, kindness, happiness, hard work, self-motivation, success, and a close relationship with us. 

But which one of these is the most important to you?

There are often times we cannot have it all. We need to prioritize and make a choice.

Parents who are unclear about their parenting priorities often pick the wrong ones and face problems down the road.

If your child doesn’t do their homework and you choose to send your child to time-out, your priority is compliance.

If your child doesn’t get good grades and you choose to take away their privilege, then your priority is success.

When punishment is used as a disciplinary strategy, behavior and success are prioritized over kindness, happiness, and a solid relationship.

Parenting is one of the biggest sources of regret in life​2​. Having a clear vision of your goals will help you make informed decisions that align with your values and purposes and have fewer regrets.

For many parents who have experienced childhood trauma, healthy relationships and happiness with their children take priority.

If this resonates with you, select a discipline strategy that prioritizes building strong relationships first.

Also See: Signs Of Childhood Trauma In Adults

Avoid Catastrophic Thinking

Many parents believe that abandoning punishment is unrealistic.

“I can’t let my child do whatever they want.”

“I can’t just let my child fail.”

They tend to automatically assume the worst.

Not punishing doesn’t mean not disciplining. Other methods of discipline exist. In fact, these methods are often more effective than punishment​3​.

Some parents believe they should focus on behavior issues first, assuming that repair opportunities will come later.

Using punishment to enforce obedience, however, can sometimes irreparably damage the parent-child relationship.

The irony is that these parents use catastrophic thinking to rationalize punishing their children but use over-optimism to think about its negative consequences.

The idea that we can use punitive measures now and switch to kindness later as if everything is alright is unrealistic.

Be Flexible

“Are we supposed to use permissive parenting – be kind to our children, let them run into the street, and get hit by cars?”

Of course not.

There’s no requirement to use a single strategy for every disciplinary situation.

Being flexible means accepting that there are various alternatives to punishment to choose from, each with its own focus.

Some parenting techniques prioritize kindness, while others prioritize safety.

We can respond to each scenario differently and find the most appropriate solution for our parenting goals. Be flexible, and don’t limit yourself to a single discipline strategy for all problems.

For instance, when dealing with situations like skipping homework, which is not a life-threatening issue, using inductive discipline that utilizes reasoning to help children understand the consequence tends to be more effective​4​.

In situations where a child’s actions are threatening to themselves or others, you may need to restrain them physically, like hugging them.

When a child repeatedly neglects their studying until prompted, allowing them to experience the natural consequences can help them understand that the consequences are not just empty threats but are real.

These examples demonstrate how to teach a child without harming the parent-child relationship or acting unkindly, which is useful for parents who value relationships or kindness over other goals.

Be a Role Model

Parental influence is important. Parents have a significant impact on their child’s values, beliefs, and attitudes.

When faced with unexpected situations, it can be tough to know how to react. A helpful approach is to consider the behavior you want your child to display, then model it for them​5,6​.

When you find yourself in a difficult moment with your child, show them how you want them to behave by doing it yourself. For instance, if you want them to stay calm and respectful in stressful situations, maintain a calm and respectful demeanor towards them.

If you, on the other hand, display anger or impatience, it sets a poor example for your child and teaches them that these are appropriate responses in difficult situations.

Be the person you want your child to become.

Also See: How To Discipline A Child

Be Confident

Pursuing a different approach to parenting can be a rewarding but difficult journey, especially when faced with criticism and judgments from family and friends.

Staying true to your parenting values and having a clear goal can help you be confident about your choices.

If the negativity becomes too much to handle, it’s important to consider the impact of toxic people on you and your child.

If you and your spouse disagree on parenting styles, check out: What To Do When Husband And Wife Have Different Parenting Styles

Final Thoughts

Making a conscious effort to parent differently is aspirational, but it’s natural to feel daunted by the responsibility involved.

Embracing a new style of parenting will be challenging, but with determination and support, you can make a positive impact on your child’s life.

If you have difficulty adopting alternative parenting strategies on your own, or if you need more support in this journey, consider seeking help from a mental health professional.

Become the good parent you wish you had as a child.


  1. 1.
    Woods-Jaeger BA, Cho B, Sexton CC, Slagel L, Goggin K. Promoting Resilience: Breaking the Intergenerational Cycle of Adverse Childhood Experiences. Health Educ Behav. Published online February 12, 2018:772-780. doi:10.1177/1090198117752785
  2. 2.
    Roese NJ, Summerville A. What We Regret Most… and Why. Pers Soc Psychol Bull. Published online September 2005:1273-1285. doi:10.1177/0146167205274693
  3. 3.
    Sege RD, Siegel BS, Flaherty EG, et al. Effective Discipline to Raise Healthy Children. Pediatrics. Published online December 1, 2018. doi:10.1542/peds.2018-3112
  4. 4.
    Barnett MA, Quackenbush SW, Sinisi CS. Factors Affecting Children’s, Adolescents’, and Young Adults’ Perceptions of Parental Discipline. The Journal of Genetic Psychology. Published online December 1996:411-424. doi:10.1080/00221325.1996.9914875
  5. 5.
    Draxten M, Fulkerson JA, Friend S, Flattum CF, Schow R. Parental role modeling of fruits and vegetables at meals and snacks is associated with children’s adequate consumption. Appetite. Published online July 2014:1-7. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2014.02.017
  6. 6.
    O’Riordan DL, Geller AC, Brooks DR, Zhang Z, Miller DR. Sunburn reduction through parental role modeling and sunscreen vigilance. The Journal of Pediatrics. Published online January 2003:67-72. doi:10.1067/mpd.2003.mpd039

About Pamela Li

Pamela Li is an author, Founder, and Editor-in-Chief of Parenting For Brain. Her educational background is in Electrical Engineering (MS, Stanford University) and Business Management (MBA, Harvard University). Learn more


    * All information on is for educational purposes only. Parenting For Brain does not provide medical advice. If you suspect medical problems or need professional advice, please consult a physician. *