Parents Teach Children To Hold Grudges
Guest Author, Anne Kass, - a retired District Judge of Albuquerque, New Mexico
Most parents know that children learn by watching their parents. It is also true that children instinctively know that talk is cheap. When a parent says one thing but does the opposite, it is the behavior that the child learns from, not the words.
Like all parents, divorced parents want their children to grow up to embrace certain values and behaviors. They want their children to grow up to be kind, courteous and truthful. They also want their children to sustain friendships and family. Sustaining friendships and family requires that one know how to forgive because friends and family members inevitably make mistakes that, if unforgiven, will destroy the relationship.
Unfortunately, all too many divorced parents do not show their children these values.
Parents who say cruel and hurtful things to and about one another are teaching their children to be unkind and rude.
Parents who deceive one another are teaching their children to lie. Even worse, some divorced parents actually enlist the children in the treachery. "Don't tell your mother..." and "Don't tell your father..." are invitations to be dishonest.
Parents who attack and counterattack one another, each harboring grudges and seeking revenge for past wrongs, are teaching the most dangerous lesson of all. These parents are teaching their children not to forgive.
Ironically, of all the skills parents need to teach their children, the skill of forgiveness is one of the most important to their own future relationship with their child. Children always have much for which to forgive their parents because parents inevitably make so many mistakes in raising their children.
Parents do not intentionally injure their children. No parent ever gets up in the morning and asks, "What can I do today that will damage my child for the rest of his or her life?" But many parents do and say things that inflict wounds their children suffer from long into adulthood, and there are adults who remain angry at their parents, sometimes forever. They don't forgive. Perhaps their parents never showed them what forgiveness looks like.
Divorced parents who refuse to give up their resentment of one another are teaching their children to hold onto resentment. That may come back to haunt the parents.
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