It’s a learned behavior.

13 Mar

For the next 30 seconds, think about this one question (it won’t take more than 30 seconds to come up with your answer, trust me….even if you’re a man reading along)

What is the one thing I am NOT going to do like my parents?

Some of you might have thought of more than one thing… but for the majority of us, there is one major area where we can see pretty clearly that our parents failed.

And just so we don’t get ahead of ourselves and think we’re going to be the perfect parents…. your parents did certain things better than their parents, and your kids will do certain things better than you.

This is not a “let’s all bash on our parents session.”  But real people can admit, their parents fell short in an area that deeply affected them to the point where they intentionally decide they will not repeat that habit, behavior, addiction, marriage… whatever it is.

For my husband, he grew up never hearing “I love you” from his dad.  He makes sure to tell all four of our kids he loves them every day.

For me, I grew up with parents who took us to church and wanted us to love Jesus, but never read the Bible with me or prayed with me (outside of before meals.)  I pray with my kids every morning on the way to school.

That being said – my parents had other bad habits and behaviors that I picked up along the way.  Some of them I see, but still many that I don’t.  Although, I’ve been uncovering a million of them in my husband, which is causing me to do some more personal reflecting.

I find that whenever I start seeing a lot of flaws or faults in someone else, it usually means something is out of whack in my own life and it’s the perfect time to look inward before I start to feel pride that I don’t have those same issues.

One thing that I am desperately trying to work on, and I am seeing some progress but NOT total freedom yet is freaking out when things go wrong.  My mom has a terrible habit of yelling, slamming cupboards, and mumbling curses when things get stressful.  Ah yes, I’ve been known to do the same.

But this runs so much deeper than bad habits.  From the time we are born, we are constantly learning behaviors.  Good and bad!

We watch our parents and we learn about the genders.  We learn what women wear, what they say, how they conduct themselves, what chores they do,  and what jobs they have by FIRST watching our mom.

We learn what men wear, what they say, how they conduct themselves, what chores they do, and what jobs they have by FIRST watching our dad.

As we grow and we’re exposed to more men and women, we may see different behaviors.  If we’re attracted to those behaviors, it may cause us to change, or it may make us cling tighter to what we first learned.

I was talking to my best friend on the phone today and we were discussing all these things and I said “even little boys who are told by their mom to do inside chores like sweeping, dusting, cleaning the toilet will grow up to think she was just lazy and tried to get her kids to do her work if they never see dad helping in those same areas.”

She said “My mother-in-law will say that the boys had chores, but if I go to their home early in the morning, I will always see her husband unloading the dishwasher, and that’s exactly the thing my husband does to help.”  Notice, he doesn’t do the chores his mom use to make him do.  He does the one thing his dad use to do to help.

If you would ask him, he wouldn’t be able to tell you this.  It was a behavior he saw modeled and therefore learned it subconsciously.

The same can be true of things we don’t see modeled too.  If we never see that we’re suppose to bring something to help with dinner when we’re invited to a guests home, like a bread or dessert, we’ll show up empty-handed every where we go.

Let me paint a scenario.

A little girl was raised by a mom who worked outside the home as a lawyer.  She was a really good mom, who loved her daughter immensely!  She taught her ALL about the law and they would practice making up cases and representing them at home.  When the little girl got married, she was extremely argumentative with her husband and always presented her case like she was her own attorney.  When her husband confronted her on this behavior and how it was hurting their marriage she says to him “I can’t help it, it’s just who I am.”

The SAME little girl was raised by a mom who worked outside the home as a professional chef.  Growing up, the little girl learned EVERYTHING there was to know about all the spices that most of us have no clue how to even pronounce.  She never wanted help in the kitchen.  But when it came to having discussions with her husband, she could never even articulate her points…. she just shut down.  When her husband confronted her on how she needed to say what was bothering her instead of expecting him to read her mind, she said “I can’t help it, it’s just what I do.”

The SAME little girl was raised by a mom who NEVER took out the trash.  It was her dad’s job.  When she got married, her husband asked if she could take out the trash.  Offended and hurt, she looks at her husband and said “How dare you ask me to do a man’s job?”

Are you getting the point?  The grown woman was trying to create an environment where her adult life conformed around “who she was.”  Even though, none of those things were who she was at all.  They were all learned habits and behaviors.

Do you know how many countless fights happen in marriages because we ALL hide behind:

“I can’t help it, it’s just who I am.”

“I’m not even going to try, I’m not any good at that.”

“I understand that you’d like that, but it’s just not what I do.”

“I’m not going to be sorry for being me.”

Listen to me….

That is cruel and selfish behavior to allow someone else to hurt, carry the load, or go with unmet needs because it doesn’t fit into your learned behaviors or habits.

If we were able to learn things in the first place, we can ALL learn new things.

Practical Application:

Spend some time making a list now that it’s fresh on your mind of good and bad behaviors you learned growing up.

Now think about things your spouse has asked from you that you refused them because it went against those behaviors or habits.

Take some time to think about how you might have hurt someone in your life by hiding behind the excuses listed above.  And then apologize if needed.

Decide if you love the other person enough to learn new habits or if you love yourself and what it’ll cost you to try more.


2 Responses to “It’s a learned behavior.”

  1. Meghan March 16, 2013 at 2:45 pm #

    WOW! Amazing Post

    • Kayla Gulick March 16, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

      Thank you! But if it wasn’t for the Lord removing the blinders, I wouldn’t have had any of that to share! So blessed to be learning and growing and have a place to testify!

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