Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Influence of Parental Influence

As I get older, I recurringly see the extent of my parents’ handprints on my own life (and truly hope that mine on my children's lives have been for the better).

It is amazing how frequently I think of my now deceased parents… especially when I’m having great fun (“Gees, I wish Mom and Dad were here!”) as well as when I’m stressed, under pressure or feeling down (“Gees, I wish Mom and Dad were here!”). Interestingly yet poignantly, in my pop-psych book, Mom and Dad’s Pearls of Wisdom… You Gotta Love ‘Em, I say the following:

I vividly remember talking to my mother about my going away to college, a scared to death freshman, and the words just came out of my mouth, “Mom, there will be times when I will wish you were there with me.”

In a blink of an eye, my Mom calmly said, “Bill, I may not be with you, but I’ll always be there.” And when I did encountered those tough moments and Mom wasn’t with me, the sounds of her words in my head were very comforting.

Like it or not, somewhere our parents’ influence(s) are intricately involved in our lives. For example, in our co-authored book, My Loving Relationships, Dr. William A. Lambos and I identify three ways in which our parents indeed can influence us:

Daddies teach their little girls how to deal with men – they teach them many things about loving a member of the opposite sex. Daddies also teach their little boys how to deal with men – they teach them about male bonding.

Mommies teach their little boys how to deal with women – they teach them many things about loving a member of the opposite sex. Mommies also teach their little girls how to deal with women – they teach them about female bonding.

Together, Mommiess and Daddies teach their children how to deal with loving relationships – they teach them many things about how two members of the opposite sex can love each other, be in love with each other, and be loving toward each other.

My three romance novels, with foci on critical adult loving relationship issues, parental influence is vividly portrayed. For example:

in My Sweetpea: Seven Years and Seven Days, Sheila eventually contemplates how her dad influenced her in her choice of a husband, and Troy eventually sees how his alcoholic father and passive mother influenced him in terms of his relationship with Sheila (and their marriage);

in Fear of Feeling Loved, Marcia thinks about how her developing and future relationship with Michael compares with her parent’s marital relationship;

and in If Ever Again, It’ll be for Love, Diane struggles with how her alcoholic mother’s drinking and recent recovery have influenced her, as well as how she and her mother may affect her daughter, Becca.

Should you be a parent, while you are considering how your patents may have influenced you, you also may want to consider how you may be influencing your children. In my recent pop-psych book, Living Life, Anyway – 2nd Edition, I specifically say:

"The most loving thing any parent can do is to facilitate his or her son or daughter's autonomous development, self-esteem, and skills and abilities in taking care of themselves."

Here are two questions you may wish to ponder (and address in a response Comment):

How have your Mom, Dad and their relationship(s) influenced you?

How are you (individually as well as with your significant other) influencing your children?



Barb said...

Yes, parental influence is HUGE with regard to relationships. I see this in my practice all of the time, mainly related to attachment. If someone does not learn what a securely attached relationship is, then they will have a lot more trouble trying to form one as an adult.

I have read 2 of Dr. Emener's books, and I can say that there are a lot of interesting psychological insights, not just about parental influence.

Barb LoFrisco, LMHC, LMFT, Certified Sex Therapist

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Barb,
You bet it's HUGE... saw it in my practice as well. And as an extension of your poignant observation regarding "attachment," I also saw it frequently associated with "commitment phobia” – as I’m sure you know, another bid issue for many people.
Thank you for your very gracious and kind comments about my books… I always have thought, “Why not enjoy a good read and possibly learn something in the process.”
Glad you stopped by!
With an open invitation down the road, gracias again mi amiga,

Anonymous said...

As an aging woman who has spent her whole life trying to avoid my parent models... dad abusive and mom passive - I agree that there is a very strong parental influence that follows us all our lives. I do think that total awareness, constant work, and a strong desire to be a much different model for my children has erased the prior generation models.

I've also found, from lots of recent contacts by girls in my scout troop almost 40 years ago, that my modeling independence, competency, and responsibility - had a large impact on them. So many seem to have been able to avoid going down their parents influence and modeling paths.

Malisa Janes, Rh.D.

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hello Dr. Janes,
Thank you for sharing your experience and insights. Interesting… to say the least. While my own parents were very good parents and roles models, I also vividly recall when I was growing up thinking thoughts like: “When I get older, I sure hope I can be like Dad (or Mom) in that way…,” “When I get older, I sure hope I’m not like Dad (or Mom) in that way…,” and “If I ever get married, I sure hope I see (and sometimes don’t see) me and my wife doing what Mom and Dad are doing.”
In today’s world, there seems to be less and less of parental modeling of “independence, competency, and responsibility,” to name but a few important human attributes. Hopefully organizations such as Scouting can make up for the lack of such and compensate what many of today’s youth get from some of their less than positive roles models (e.g., some of the rappers, professional athletes, etc.).
This easily could be a seminar… heh, heh.
Thanks again, Malisa – hope to see you again in the future!