How Parents Shape Their Children's Personalities

Each kind word or aggressive comment shapes the mind and personality of a child. Nothing that parents do (or fail to do) escapes a child's attention. We look at the impact these actions can have.
How Parents Shape Their Children's Personalities

Last update: 17 August, 2022

The way parents shape their children’s personalities can be both fascinating and devastating. After all, the social setting in which they grow up can either be emotionally supportive and nurturing or harmful. Furthermore, children notice every one of their parents’ words gestures, behaviors, attitudes, and reactions.

Some adults, even now, despite being immersed in their independent lives, are still dealing with certain childhood wounds. Indeed, narcissistic parents, dysfunctional families, or cold or aggressive caregivers leave a permanent imprint on a child’s brain.

However, as the neurologist Boris Cyrulnik, points out, a bad childhood doesn’t have to determine a life. Love and resilience are the bulwarks that allow us to heal, repair and move on. Be that as it may, it’s interesting to know what the dynamics in upbringing and education are that usually have a significant influence on the development of the individual.

Sometimes, growing up in an environment of heartbreak, cruel words, and mistrust between our parents can mediate the way we relate to our own emotional partners.

Separated parents and their daughter in the middle to represent how our parents shaped our personality
Parental influence directly mediates the child’s psychosocial development.

The ways parents shape their children’s personalities

Being a father or mother is a great responsibility. We usually want to make an effort to give our little ones the best education, attend to their every need, quench every fear, and give them hopes and dreams for their future. However, there are always certain aspects that we might be unaware of that can also have an effect on them.

In fact, it’s not enough to support, feed, educate, and comfort them when they cry. We also have to know how to set examples and be role models they can imitate and draw inspiration from. After all, many children dream of being like their parents, perhaps for their kindness, good work, or even their professional achievements.

Let’s discover the ways in which parents shape their children’s personalities.

1. When parents don’t invalidate emotions, children are happier

“Don’t cry, you have to be strong”, “That’s nonsense, cheer up” and “That’s a stupid way to react”. Emotionally invalidating fathers and mothers boycott the psychosocial development of their children. They convince them that what they feel and need isn’t important, that what hurts must be swallowed and dealt with alone.

Children who grew up in family environments dominated by these internal rules will have suffered many negative consequences. In fact, they’re more likely to struggle with managing their own internal needs, thus experience discomfort and unhappiness.

On the other hand, those who grew up in an environment skilled in emotional intelligence were lucky. That’s because there’s nothing as important as validating a child’s emotions and guiding them in their learning.

2. Aggressive communication: children with higher risk of depression

The University of Pittsburgh (USA) conducted a study that was published in the journal, Child Development, in which they stated that harsh and authoritarian verbal discipline has extremely severe effects on child development. They also claimed that making use of shouting in communication, as well as the persistent threat as a behavior corrective, can generate two consequences.

The first is that, when these children reach adolescence, they exhibit behavioral problems. The second is that they show a higher risk of developing depressive disorders.

3. Anxious and stressed parents: accelerated parenting

Some parents are extremely stressed. They seem to be always busy and don’t want to be disturbed. They have no time to play with their children, don’t answer their questions, and easily lose their patience.

The fact that they’re so stressed means that, while they’re physically present in their children’s lives, they’re not really there. This kind of reality permeates child development in a profound way. In fact, it means growing up without the dimension that’s so important for every child: attention from their main caregivers.

4. Mothers with higher education: more applied children

Having educated parents has, on average, a positive impact on children. Especially academically. For example, research conducted by the University of Michigan (USA) found that children of teenage mothers experience greater difficulties in their academic performance.

The same doesn’t happen with mothers who’ve been to university. In these cases, children reach a higher educational level.

5. Parents who give their children responsibilities

The way parents shape their children’s personalities is connected with the responsibilities they give them. If they choose to be overprotective and take away all their child’s obligations, it’s likely that they’ll find it really difficult to adapt to adult life.

However, when parents are concerned with raising their children to be responsible and independent, they often give the world more mature people. In fact, giving them responsibilities according to their age is one of the most appropriate strategies.

A child doesn’t need their parents to live together for their sake. A child needs to grow up in an environment where there’s harmony, not constant arguments between two people who no longer love each other

6. Couples who don’t love each other and argue in front of their children

There are couples who, despite being desperately unhappy, choose not to end the relationship. They do it for the supposed welfare of the children, for fear of breaking up the family, and for the consequences that might follow. Nevertheless, there can be few realities more devastating than growing up in a home permeated by a lack of affection from parents.

These children develop in a context dominated by reproaches, arguments, and constant tension. Their models of relationships are offered to them by parents who yell at and despise each other. These dynamics also alter the child’s personality and often leave them having to deal with more than one trauma.

Parents talking to their children to represent how our parents shaped our personality
Parents who communicate with their children at all times with trust and affection provide positive and enriching experiences.

7. Parents who educate in respect and trust

Few gifts can be more wonderful for a child than having parents with whom they can talk about anything. Indeed, growing up in a family orchestrated by trust, complicity, a sense of humor, and closeness is priceless. This is how a true home is built, where each member knows how to be a refuge for the others because they don’t judge, don’t criticize, and they know how to understand each other.

These kinds of parents give their children confidence with their respect, unquestionable love, and lack of sanctions. This is something every child deserves to have in their life.

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  • Tang, Sandra & Davis-Kean, Pamela & Chen, Meichu & Sexton, Holly. (2014). Adolescent Pregnancy’s Intergenerational Effects: Does an Adolescent Mother’s Education Have Consequences for Her Children’s Achievement?. Journal of Research on Adolescence. 26. 10.1111/jora.12182.
  • Wang MT, Kenny S. Longitudinal links between fathers’ and mothers’ harsh verbal discipline and adolescents’ conduct problems and depressive symptoms. Child Dev. 2014 May-Jun;85(3):908-923. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12143. Epub 2013 Sep 3. PMID: 24001259; PMCID: PMC3875601.