Parenting – A Reflection of How You Were Raised?

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What makes a good parent? We all have our own answers to this question and that’s the way it should be. I was trying to ask myself where that answer comes from for me. I haven’t read the books, I tend not to be influenced by ‘park talk’ and I have no blueprint. More and more I realise that I am trying to pick the ‘best bits’ from my own childhood and pass them on to Max.

I was allowed to be a child, the kind that fell out of trees, tore his clothes and flirted with adventure and danger in equal measures. With an imagination fuelled by books and stories, I was an expert den builder, I made my own bow and arrows, I was forever on treasure hunts and I never returned home until the sun had set. I can remember one favourite game of ours was splitting into two teams, climbing the apple trees in an orchard and trying to knock each other out of the tree with the apples, probably not one that will catch on today.

My Grandparents had a farm in the country and spending long summer holidays there filled my head with lots of memories filed under “joyous”. Scampering into the chicken coop and filling my jumper with eggs, 50% of which might have made it to the pantry intact. Milking the cows and drinking straight from the bucket. Hurtling down hills in ‘rustic’ billy carts, ignoring the calls to “be careful”.  These days there’s a name for this sort of child-hood fun and frolics, I’ve seen it referred to as Free Range.

Those are the memories I want to fill Max’s head with although living in the middle of a metropolis can make that a logistical challenge. I’d gladly swap the museums, cinemas, galleries and shopping centres of the city for forests, rivers, mountains and lakes. For me having and maintaining a sense of adventure and imagination is up there on my list, the mental list that most parents keep titled “What Qualities I’d Like My Child to Have”. Its part of a little challenge I set myself when Max was born to give him an extraordinary childhood rather than an ordinary childhood.


I always had the impression my parents were very thrifty and took exception to that. If we went out to eat we were often restricted to the dreaded Soup of the Day whilst there always seemed to be a boy on the table next door greedily scoffing down an overflowing plate of fish n chips. I can remember on family holidays we were allowed an ice cream on the last night of the holiday only. I remember one day being shocked that along with my siblings we were told we could choose a ‘big toy’ each from the toy shop; that sticks in my mind because that was unusual.

I admire their thriftiness now and see the value in it, not just a healthier bank balance but I’m convinced that less is more for Max. Whenever he has a windfall of presents around birthdays and Christmas time it seems to burden him. Rather than slow down and enjoy one thing he flits from one to the other without any focus. His expectations change for a few days afterwards and what used to be “good morning” or “hello” becomes “present?”

My parents have been together since their early 20’s, they both worked hard and played an active role in their three children’s upbringing and I can honestly say I’ve never seen them argue.  Furthermore they still walk around holding hands, that’s not a bad effort for 40 years of marriage. That created an environment that felt safe and stable and also set a precedent that I quickly realised set us apart from a lot of other families.

Those are some of the things that I have plucked from my childhood and hold on to as being valuable and beneficial for Max. How much is your approach to parenting a reflection of how you were raised? What else guides your parenting style?

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  • The Wildflowers

    This is the childhood I had,and the one our kids now have,
    I get told my kids are free range,free spirits,”hippies” or old fashioned (just to name a few titles we have been called/named etc) just because our kids play outdoors,wade through creeks/rivers looking for fish and tadpoles,climb trees (and fall from them) get dirty and read books (rather then kindles and ipads)!!
    I wouldn’t swap any of it though,and I don’t give a shit about the title.
    Enjoy it Matt,obviously you think back to your childhood with a beautiful fondness and that is a gift you and Anna can give to Max and any of your future little people.
    Jess x

    • daddownunder

      I think at the time I felt different to kids around me, I probably didn’t always appreciate it, nobody wants to be different at school do they. I hope someone calls us one of those names Jessi. it’s what I aspire to be : ) Thanks for sharing.

  • Bron Hogan

    Totally relate I grew up in Africa and had an amazing childhood. There is a (free) group, recently formed, who’s aim is to help busy parents give their kids great childhood memories no matter where they live. Check it out on this link here

    • daddownunder

      You must have some amazing memories Bron. I’ve got a huge urge to go to Africa, it might take a while but I’ll get there. Thanks for sharing the link, what a great idea, are you involved?

      • Bron Hogan

        I met the founder of My kids Adventures, Michael Stelzner when I went to the first WSMM13 (World Social Media Marketing) conference in San Diego in April. His desire to help families create great fun memories for their kids is contagious. People are encouraged to contribute as well.
        Fun, inexpensive ideas flow freely there. I enjoyed the glow stick ‘skittles’ idea they had for their first post!

  • Jodi Gibson

    You know I’ve never really thought of it. I really just go on instinct, but I guess those instincts were influenced by how I was raised. Interesting.

    • daddownunder

      Interesting is good, I’m happy with interesting : )

  • Emily

    I’ve often thought about this. I think absolutely, your own childhood is your biggest influence, and your friends and peers play a big role too (especially if they have kids around the same time).
    I had a similar upbringing to yours by the sounds of it – I wasn’t smothered at all. Ditto thrifty – we never went out. We just couldn’t afford it! I also spent most school holidays on the farm with my grandparents and cousins. Good times!

    • daddownunder

      Good times indeed Em, all children should be raised on a farm : )

  • Alison Leader

    I think many in my parents’ generation thought complimenting their children ‘gave them a big head’ – at least that’s what my mum used to say. I always seek to affirm and positively reinforce my kids. We all need it.

    • daddownunder

      Couldn’t agree more Alison, I think self confidence and loving yourself is a very healthy thing to have

  • Facebook User

    “I’ll Call You If I Need a Big
(a fun rap) is included in one of our upbeat CDs for kids. We raised two kids and are
    award-winning songwriters. I was a teacher for 20 years.–

    KIDS CDs- Reviewed by School Library
1.”Bubblebee: Songs for the Young at Heart”– includes fun songs about
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    2.”Be a Buddy, not a Bully”-
    “Positivity” & favorites from the other CDs 

    3.”Tale of Aladdin and
    Bubblebee”–Audio book in rhyme; new, original sequel to the Aladdin legend

    For PARENTS– Songs with popular
    girls names; good for parties
—-1-“New Romantic Love Songs for JESSICA,

    2-”More New Romantic Songs for ANNA,

    3-“Gennaro…from Cool to Hot”- Funny
    songs & love songs

  • KezUnprepared

    I grew up in a family where gender roles were blurred, we all communicated openly about our feelings (for better or worse) and I was taught that there are consequences for our actions, that we must consider others. Also, being adopted, that family values are so much more than blood. My brother and I were allowed to be individuals and although I would have liked to have rebelled more during my teens, my parents not only commanded respect, but taught me respect for myself. I may have faltered since, but they’re still there for me to this day. I want all of this for my Little Mister.

    • daddownunder

      That sounds like a fantastic upbringing, your parents knew what they were up to Kez. It’s good to have a sense of what you want for your children I think, rather than always reacting.

  • Vicky Finch

    How truly blessed you are Matt to have such beautiful memories to influence your parenting. Max is one very lucky boy :)
    My experiences definitely have shaped and influenced how I have parented. Unfortunately my point of reference is completely different to yours. I remember at 19 making the conscious choice that I wouldn’t bring my children up the way I was. I didn’t know how I was going to, but I knew definitively how I WASN’T going to. Not having a good point of reference made me actively seek mothers that have heavily influenced my own mothering, and I have had to read a lot. Children are from heaven, celebrating girls, raising boys, He’ll Be Ok: Growing Gorgeous Boys Into Good Men to name a few.

    As my two eldest are nearly 18, and 15 I am starting to see the fruits of my labour. They are confident, caring, compassionate individuals that, while, as all teens do, test my boundaries, I am incredibly proud of. It hasn’t been perfect, but they have resilence and independence.

    • daddownunder

      I’m sorry to hear that Vicky and I commend you on knowing it wasn’t what you wanted for your kids and for actively initiating a change. It does feel like an investment that will pay off down the track