Parents Creating Personality Traits For Their Children

by Sarah

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk

Ever since my sister and I were small children, our parents have imposed personality traits upon us. For example, our parents have always labeled my sister as outgoing even though in reality she's quite reserved. They have also been telling me since early childhood that I think I'm "never wrong." Granted, I have always been adamant about defending my opinions, but I don't think I'd take it that far.

This has always bothered me, but it hit me pretty hard recently when my sister and I were both visiting our parents' home. I was engaging in a friendly debate with another family member, and my mother, without even hearing most of the debate, said to me, "You have always been stubborn, and you think you're right about everything! You would try to argue that the grass is black!" I asked the cousin I was debating with if he was offended by my defense of my point, and he said no - everything was completely innocent and harmless.

I don't understand why parents create these ideas of who their children are at a young age then continue to give these same labels once the children have grown. Is there any psychological reason that parents do this?

Another aspect of this that I'm wondering about: my parents have tended to associate me with family members I resemble and to attach their character traits to me. For example, my grandmother was an un-medicated bipolar sufferer and I look just like her. Because I happened to be a very sensitive, emotional child, my parents began saying that I was going to turn out "crazy" like her, never succeed, and fail at all my relationships. Ironically, I did inherit my grandmother's bipolar disorder, but I lead a perfectly normal life as a university professor and have been in a healthy partnership for a long time.

I also resemble one of my aunts who was very rebellious as a teenager and is a bit self-centered. So of course, my parents decided from my early childhood that they had to watch me closely because I "look just like her."

Ultimately, I would just like to understand this better from a psychological perspective. I've worked through a lot of it on a personal level, but I'd like some authoritative information on why parents do this to their children. Thanks!

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