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What Is Your ‘Parenting Preload’ and Why It Matters

How do you keep your past from negatively affecting your parenting? Here’s how to break the generational cycle that comes with your parenting preload.
Last Updated
April 22, 2019
posted on
June 26, 2020
Minute Read

I often say every parent comes pre-wired with everything she needs to be a great parent to a great kid. And it’s true. Parents have all the tools they need to be an excellent parent already inside them

But as much as this is true, parents are also preloaded with ideas and misconceptions that subconsciously affect their parenting. I call this the parenting preload. 

The parenting preload is a collection of our experiences growing up with our parents and in our families. 

Your parenting preload comes from what your parents were like and how they parented you. All of us experienced different types of parenting. Some of us had passive parents who wanted to be our friends more than they wanted to discipline us. Some of us had authoritarian parents who disciplined us too much. Some of us had helicopter parents who were too involved in our daily lives and schedules, or absent parents who weren’t involved enough.

You may be very aware of the type of parenting you were subjected to growing up. You might not be aware at all. Regardless, we all carry preloaded parenting habits with us, and once we become parents ourselves, our preloaded parenting will begin to show up. 

It’s important to note that your parenting preload will make an appearance whether you want it to or not. Many of you have probably gone into parenting determined to not make the same mistakes your parents did. But the parenting preload is subconscious. We repeat what we know and what we’re comfortable with, not what we want to do. 

The parenting preload will show up in your tone of voice, how you speak to your kids, and how you react to them whether that is the way you want to react or not. This is why your preload is usually most evident when you are disciplining your child because we are often reactionary when it comes to discipline.

You may feel triggered even reading the “d” word. Discipline is hard for parents, no matter your child’s age. From toddlers to teenagers, disciplining our kids in a healthy and effective way can feel impossible, and our preloads don’t make this any easier. If you had a father who yelled a lot, you might hear yourself yelling at your child and cringe. If you had a mom who let you do whatever you want, you might be overcorrecting and trying to helicopter your daughter.

The parenting preload can show up in myriad ways, and overcoming this preload is essential if we want to be good disciplinarians while fostering a healthy relationship with our children.

How do you overcome your parenting preload? Awareness is key. You are not helpless to your preload. In fact, you are only helpless to your preload if you are completely unaware of it. Awareness will allow you to move past your preload and into a healthy parenting style.

As you become aware of your parenting preload and where it came from, you will feel empowered to act not according to preset instinct, but rather in the moment as a strong and caring parent for your child. 

I recently created a free webinar entitled The Discipline Playbook: How to be an Effective and CALM Disciplinarian. In it, I go deeper into the parenting preload, why it matters, and how to overcome it. I also address the most common myths parents believe about discipline, and I provide practical tools you can start using today while disciplining your child. 

If you want to learn more about your parenting preload, I highly encourage watching the webinar. Sign up here. It’s completely free because I believe this is a resource every parent needs. 

Disciplining our kids is hard enough as it is but overcoming the missteps your parents made with discipline makes it even harder. Still, discipline is not hopeless! In fact, it’s become one of my favorite topics to write and speak about because when discipline is done well, it can be one of the best teachers to kids, growing them into the great adults you pray they will be someday.

Sign up for the webinar today!

Dr. Meg Meeker, MD

Practicing pediatrician, parent, grandparent, coach, speaker, and author. Say hello @MegMeekerMD

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