March 11, 2021

Actual Parent = Ideal Parent?

As an individual learns and grows, they build and idea or an image of what and who their parents are and what they want from their parents.  At the same time, they are taking in implicit and explicit rules from their parents as well as the outside world.


  1. Implied, rather than expressly stated
  2. unquestioning or unreserved; unconditional


  1. fully and clearly expressed or demonstrated; leaving nothing merely implied; unequivocal
  2. clearly developed or formulated
  3. definite and unreserved in expression; outspoken

These rules tell use who we are, who are parents are, who are parents want us to be, how to please them and get the validation we crave. When these rules or stories are healthy and supportive, these can help spring board a person into the life they want. But too often these rules get garbled and twisted into unhealthy patterns that keep people from the relationships they want.

For most people, but especially, those that grow up in turmoil or chaos there is a development of two versions of each parent; ideal mom and actual mom and a similarly an ideal dad and actual dad.  The dueling versions of parents is often what creates tension and confusion in the relationship as an individual grows older.

Actual vs Ideal

Our ideal parents are patient, kind, caring and supportive.  The actual parent may want to be those things and, in some cases, even believe they are those things.  Yet as an adult works themselves into knots attempting to elicit the desired response from their parents often learns, the actual parent may not be able to show up the way you want them to.  

What went wrong? A lot of times people double down on themselves and assume that they are in some way lacking and that is the cause of the lackluster response from their parents. What is far more often the case is that their parents simply don't have the resources to show up the way they were expected to. The rules and/or expectations that have been built up are simply unattainable.

Time to Adjust?

What you want and crave from your parents may be totally reasonable. The problem may not be you at all. A lot of times we long for things that our parents simply cannot give us. Though it sounds easy enough to love and accept your kids as they are, some parents just can't do it. So it falls on you to adjust. Take stock of the person your parent(s) is as a whole person. Do they have good boundaries? Do they love themselves well? Are they able to have other healthy relationships? It is a big and often painful undertaking but realizing that your parents are not and may not be capable of becoming your "ideal" parent, is a big first step to rewriting your relationships stories.

As always, I’m here.  If you are ready to work on having the life you want, call me and let’s get started!

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