Why there are symbiotic parents and how would you know if you’re one of them?

Nathaniel looking out of the fiberglass window of a passenger boat.

What is a symbiotic parent? How do you know if you’re a symbiotic parent? Why it is important that you, as a parent, should know what it is all about?

A symbiotic parent is, actually, a parent who adapts and enforces the unconscious parenting style to his children. He is one who would act from his perception or point of view of what his child is doing without careful consideration or understanding on the child’s feelings or why he is doing what he is doing. An unconscious parent, by the way, is unaware of the consequences of his actions in such a way that, while he’s taking action, he makes no reference to the feelings of his child.

The parent who falls under this category, no matter how hard he tried to be well-intentioned and determined of the kind of parenting he thought was right for his children, would always end up being consciously unintentional. But why was that so? Are unconscious parents bad?

No. They’re not actually bad, but they just needed help. Many of them also have wonderful qualities. They are good people who are determined, committed, caring, and kind. But, as what I’ve said, they just needed some help.

Again, let me stress the fact that unconscious parents are, actually, not bad people. But they are wounded people who have never had a chance to heal into greater self-awareness and self-acceptance. Unconscious parents are, in other words, people who could be just like most of us.

The term “unconscious parent” should never be used as something that represents “negative” but as a description rather than a judgment. It should be referred, for the most part, to the beliefs parents are holding, the actions they have taken, and the behaviors and feelings they have experienced that were “out of awareness” and therefore out of their control.

My Madonna and Child as seen from the window.

Getting a better sense of what unconscious parenting means by familiarizing yourself with how it sounds is to learn more about what such a concept really is. The following are a few examples of what unconscious parenting sounds like as verbally reacted by parents to the upsetting things their children do or want to do:

  • “Do not do that. I told you not to play with a drinking glass. You never listen to me. You’re ignoring me each time. See what happens!” This from a dad whose three-year-old son was just curious enough to find out why the glass is transparent by holding it in his arms and tilting every way he liked until he dropped it off, hurting himself in the process.
  • “Get out of the street. If I ever see you do that again, that bicycle is gone. Now, put it away. You have no idea what you’re doing. My goodness, you’re so damn careless.” This from a mother whose daughter was just learning to ride a bicycle and who had lost control, and ridden into the main street.
  • “There’s no way are you staying out until twelve midnight. You know what happens. It seems like it has become the trend nowadays. Girls get pregnant.” This from a dad whose sixteen-year-old daughter was going on her first date ever.

These verbal reactions of a parent to a child are but simple examples, and although understandable, yet carrying a potentially wounding parental reactions to everyday events. They may be hurtful, but to be exact on whether or not they are really damaging depends on whether they are part of an overall pattern that is violating the essential self of the child.

In its mild form, unconscious parenting is everyday experience in which a parent thinks he knows what his child wants or feels, or what he should want or feel. While in its extreme form unconscious parenting is being perceived as a pervasive pattern of cruelty and neglect that permeates every aspect of a child’s life.

If you’re the kind of parent who cannot see yourself as separate from your child, then you had surely developed what is to be called a “symbiotic relationship” with your child.” Hence the term unconscious parent. All forms of unconscious parenting come from symbiosis.

When a parent self-absorbed his own childhood wounding, symbiosis occurs. And because a parent’s own fundamental needs has never been met, he would resort into projecting his own constraints and wishes onto his children, who, as he so believed and thought, could offer him another chance to live life the way he wished he had. Symbiosis, in other words and in that sense, is an expression of incomplete development on his part.

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