Jenny was having dinner at her daughter’s the other night when she realised something – her daughter Samantha sounded just like her. Samantha was asking her kids to put their toys away and when they refused to, she said something that sounded just like her Jenny.
Then, as Jenny observed her daughter more and more, she realised that Samantha was slowly becoming just like her. The way she manages the kitchen, her cooking style, how she organises the clothes and now, the way she disciplines her kids too.
Does this mean that all children will end up just like their parents, for better or for worse?
Part of the answer can be found in contemporary neuroscience.
According to research discussed in Psychology Today, humans are programmed to develop through interactions with others and this is why early parental behaviour has such an impact on our psyches. In fact, parents and siblings are the main people most infants and toddlers interact with.
This internal programming is also one of the reasons people can change over the course of their lives – interactions with friends, teachers, other relatives and lovers can all teach our brain new patterns, which can alter our relationships and our sense of self.
So what makes children suddenly “regress” to behaviours that look and sound just like their parents?
According to neuroscientists, our neurons seek familiar paths, especially when are in a stressful situation. Dr Daniel J. Siegel who is a professor of clinical psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, explained it with this image, “You are at a park and there is a lake with ducks that you want to feed. To get to the lake you have to walk through a field of high grass, and as you do, the grass bends under your feet creating a path. When you come back, you naturally walk along the path you have just created. The next person to go down to the lake goes along your path, and comes back the same way; and the next and the next.”
Dr Siegel says that our neurons work the same way, that is, they tend to flow in an established pattern. We can change those paths; but in certain situations, like when we go home for a holiday, familiar interactions cause the neurons to quickly re-align on old paths.
This is also what happens when we hear ourselves using those familiar phrases from childhood, sentences we promised ourselves we would never say to our own children.
Is it a bad thing that our kids are turning into us or if we are turning into our parents?
Experts say it’s completely normal for people to sound and act like their parents, because it doesn’t mean they have become their parents.
They may not want to follow a particular trait or behaviour of a parent especially if it is hurtful or unkind but if they change how they handle things even in the slightest way, chances are they can turn out to be different even if just a little.
But in the event you do see yourself in your kids, don’t be quick to correct your wrongs just because they do it. Your kids might still call you out on your own mistakes. After all, it’s all part of growing up.