Are We Acting Like Monkeys and Parrots?

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I have discovered how we act like monkeys and parrots. I noticed that practically all of my clients did to their children what their parents did to them, even though they hated the behavior. For example, children that were yelled at or hit, often grow up doing the same to their kids. (A monkey sees and a monkey does. A parrot hears and a parrot repeats.)

We learn how to be in the world from our parents modeling. Therefore, we continue to pass down the abusive behavior through the generations. I help my clients stop that dysfunctional pattern, and you can, too.

I once asked my 12-yeat-old daughter why she did something. She replied, “Mom, you sound like grandpa!” “Oh,” I responded, “thank you for telling me. I hated when my father said that to me!”

You see, we can be on “automatic pilot” and not be aware of those negative patterns. Once I become conscious of mine, I set my intent to avoid putting my daughter or anyone else on the defensive by starting my sentences with the word “why.” I replaced that word with what and how questions which are great to simply ask for more information.

I suggest that you forgive your parents (and yourself if you need to) for doing the best they could with the information they had. Then be conscious of what behaviors you want to keep from your parents modeling and which ones you choose to change to more positive reactions and behaviors. Be the person you want your children to be. They are watching and listening. They can be like positive, functional monkeys and parrots. What a wonderful world this would be, if we all did just that. What you do and say does make a difference!

Helene Rothschild, MS, MA, LMFT, has been a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist for over 30 years. She developed her own therapeutic technique which she calls, HART (Holistic And Rapid Transformation). She is also a speaker, workshop facilitator, and the author of All You Need is HART! Rothschild is also the author of numerous inspirational books, CDs, articles, and posters, including the well known parenting guidelines, “As I Grow” and “Help Me Grow.” Rothschild offers international telephone and in-person sessions. Her office is near Campbell.