How do parenting styles affect an individual's behavior patterns in adulthood? Is there a way to adjust? How can it be adjusted?

The Impact of Parents on Child Development

The topic of how parents influence their children is complex, but one thing is certain: people are not simply copies of their parents, but are influenced by a multitude of factors.

The brain can be divided into two parts: the primitive part, also known as the reptilian brain, which is responsible for emotions, instincts, and some automated processes (like heartbeat, body temperature, walking, etc.); and the advanced part, also known as the mammalian brain, which handles thinking, reasoning, judgment, and rationally views external and internal states.

These two parts of the brain together determine how we perceive the world and what actions we take.

The functionality of the primitive brain alone is sufficient for a person’s physiological survival. The advanced part of the brain, however, needs interaction with others to develop and operates best with moderate emotional intensity. Humans require psychological survival (attachment, response, belonging, meaning, etc.) more than other animals.

If the growing environment is poor, the development of the advanced part of the brain faces many challenges. For instance, if parents rarely empathize with a child’s crying and are more accusatory, the child may grow up not knowing how to soothe and understand some of their feelings and may dislike seeing their own children cry. Sometimes, resembling our parents is not about truly being “like” them; it’s a common challenge for many.

To change this, it’s necessary to develop mentalization: the ability to accommodate and observe one’s emotions, and to use one’s feelings to understand the mental states of oneself and others.

Additionally, people develop a “functional self” to cope with various situations, emphasizing certain brain functions while suppressing others. For example, “Mercy does not command an army, righteousness does not manage wealth” implies that in warfare or business, one should focus on logic and analyzing pros and cons, suppressing the part that feels others' pain.

If a person grows up in a poor environment, a specific “functional self” may dominate. For instance, maintaining superficial peace with disliked parents often requires suppressing hostile or affectionate impulses, appearing polite, indifferent, or compliant. Over time, this “functional self” becomes more automated and less interactive with the outside world. However, if it’s too dominant, it’s easy to repeat past patterns. Knowing when to drop this façade is challenging, which is one reason many people struggle to establish intimate relationships in adulthood, as such relationships often require letting go of the “functional self.”

Like cheetahs and antelopes, in the chase and being chased, both develop highly sensitive nervous systems. It’s hard to domesticate antelopes because their alert systems are too sensitive and they easily get scared, leading to high mortality rates in human environments.

People can only abandon some of their “functional self” when they feel the new relationship is acceptable—responsive, fulfilling, safe, predictable. However, this acceptance might take time, as it is not only a matter of rational knowledge but also about genuinely feeling it and living it out, which varies in difficulty for each individual.

To break free from the influence of one’s family of origin, family therapy introduces a term called “emotional differentiation,” which refers to the degree of psychological independence a person maintains in their family and others' emotions.

People with high emotional differentiation can maintain independence amidst others' emotions and further observe and understand them. Conversely, those with low differentiation may often want to escape or get entangled in relationships, struggling to handle the impact of others' emotions.

Cultivating emotional differentiation is generally achieved in two ways: rebuilding one’s internal rules and patterns, and establishing one-on-one connections with parents, which allows for a deeper understanding of oneself and viewing parents' actions from an equal perspective.

Influence of Parenting Styles on Adult Behavior

The way parents raise their children greatly influences the individual’s behavior patterns in adulthood.

If parents have a loving relationship, their offspring often have good relationships too.

In our family, my parents shared a great bond and put in their utmost effort to provide us with a good life during their time.

In the 1970s, we were able to have meat in every meal;

During school, we could wear Dacron clothes obtained through connections using cloth coupons;

In middle school, we could ride Phoenix brand bicycles and watch Changhong brand color TVs.

I thought our family’s living standard was quite good locally.

However, I didn’t expect to spark a heated discussion on Zhihu, where people commented that our family’s lifestyle was far better than many others at that time.

Our comfortable life was the result of both my parents' hard work.

My father worked at a very good company at the time.

My mother worked in agriculture, selling vegetables, tobacco leaves, and garlic shoots.

We were from a wealthy area in Yunnan.

Even though my mother knew we had enough for our needs, she still involved my sister and me in textile processing at night to supplement our income.

She processed garments for a clothing factory, earning two mao per piece for baby overalls.

She also found time to sew clothes for neighbors, relatives, and friends for free.

This taught us from a young age that if we wanted to eat and dress well, we had to work hard with our own hands.

The three of us siblings, as adults, never asked for money from our parents.

We each live decent lives based on our own abilities.

Our parents practiced a laissez-faire approach to education.

They never demanded us to do certain things, nor did they scold or punish us.

Through their actions, they taught us how to be good people and how to excel in our own ways.

The power of example is far greater than that of words.

My parents were very family-oriented.

They remained loving and never argued until their old age.

This was possible because both were economically independent and didn’t need to rely on each other.

As adults, the younger generation also maintains economic and emotional independence.

We live our lives without depending on others.

Due to my father’s excessive pampering, I am clueless about household chores and cooking.

My career has never been a concern for my parents.

Therefore, taking over all the household responsibilities isn’t feasible for me.

I plan to slowly learn domestic chores and cooking skills when I have time, to improve my practical life skills.

During my junior high school years, there was a head teacher who always favored students from affluent families, those with government connections, or those who excelled academically.

He would casually say during class, “Like father, like son, and like mother, like daughter. A child of a mouse will dig a hole.”

At that time, I didn’t fully grasp the meaning behind his words.

It wasn’t until I started working and heard this phrase from others that I realized the discrimination that teacher showed towards certain students.

That teacher firmly believed that the kind of parents one had would determine the kind of child they would become.

However, later on, I came across the story of Liu Yuanyuan. Liu Yuanyuan’s mother was illiterate and couldn’t read, yet she managed to raise a brilliant student like Liu Yuanyuan who went on to study at Peking University.

I wonder where that head teacher, who believed so strongly in the idea that a child’s destiny is predetermined, is now and whether his own children have achieved remarkable things.

I don’t know, and I probably never will.

All I know is that if someone believes in this saying, it tends to come true.

If we don’t believe it, there’s a chance to break free from this constraint and live our own lives.

Perhaps before we become independent, we will inevitably be influenced by our parents, even if we refuse to admit it. There will always be some subtle influence.

But life is long, and once we achieve financial and emotional independence, we have the opportunity to reshape our lives as we see fit.

We can buy things we like but don’t necessarily need, decorate a small house exactly to our liking, or save money to travel the world and set our souls free.

As we become stronger, our parents, in turn, gradually weaken.

When we have the power to decide our own destinies, our parents' influence on us becomes something we allow rather than something they impose.

I still remember when I complained about the negative influence of my mother, my father said to me:

“Before you became an adult, there were indeed some things your mom didn’t handle properly."

“But you are not the same child anymore; you now have the power to change your own life."

“Complaining about your parents' negative influence at this point is just a poor excuse. You have the capability to make choices, and you shouldn’t use your parents as a shield every time you encounter a problem."

“Remember, this is your life, not your parents' life. They aren’t obligated to pave the way for you."

“You still have to rely on yourself, and that’s the most solid foundation."

“Adult Personality Traits: Origins and Influences”

After the age of 15, adults' personalities are mostly established.

Adult personalities are determined by genetics and childhood experiences before the age of 15.

When a person is born, they come with a set of genetic codes, and their early life environment shapes behavior patterns that are most adapted to that environment.

This means that existing genes may not necessarily express themselves, but some genes will be repeatedly activated, leading to exceptional abilities.

Some genes, on the other hand, may remain dormant.

In terms of brain neurons, this corresponds to changes in the density of neural connections in your brain.

As a coach who has provided advantage consulting to over 4000 individuals, I use Gallup StrengthsFinder, an authoritative personality assessment tool in the field, along with observations of numerous consulting cases to provide some insights.

What childhood experiences might underlie certain behavioral patterns in adults?

Optimistic [Sunshine, always cheerful, sees the bright side of things, and is outgoing and positive.]

This personality trait may come from being well-protected and pampered as a child, with parents granting a lot of autonomy. Being an only child in affluent families from regions like Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Shanghai may also lead to this disposition. However, it can also result from a less fortunate childhood, where one had to force themselves to focus on the “good” side of things to find hope.

Commanding [Strong-willed, sets rules, seeks control and authority, and believes in “I don’t want your opinions; I want mine."]

This personality trait may originate from a lack of support in childhood, where facing difficulties alone led to immediate counterattacks when attacked. Some may have experienced a comfortable childhood, being the center of attention as a child, with parents enjoying local reputation.

Harmonious [Avoids conflicts, often compromises, and sacrifices personal interests for the sake of progress.]

This personality trait may stem from parents frequently arguing during childhood, instinctively seeking conflict avoidance. It can also result in building only the harmonious trait in the relationship quadrant, signifying, “I don’t need anything; I just want you not to argue.”

Prudent [Risk-averse, dislikes taking chances, instinctively evaluates risks and safety boundaries before taking action, only starts after considering the worst-case scenario.]

This personality trait may arise from constant criticism during childhood, leading to a need to avoid making mistakes. Or it may be triggered by recent significant setbacks, creating a severe lack of security, where the environment feels “fraught with danger.”

Adaptive [Living in the moment, going with the flow, needs a nudge to take action, primarily externally driven.]

This personality trait may result from frequent moves, school changes, or shifts in living environments during childhood. It may also arise from having sufficient security as a child to go with the flow.

Competitive [Strong desire to benchmark, constantly compares themselves to the outside world, often feels inferior for not being the best.]

This personality trait may be innate and reinforced by mothers who continually compared their child to others or offered praise for coming first.

Pleasing [Sociable, enjoys meeting strangers, easily gains attention and trust from others upon first meetings.]

This personality trait may come from childhood experiences where they frequently visited other people’s homes and learned that making everyone happy made them happier. Additionally, when guests arrived, parents had their children perform, and the child became excited and made everyone laugh, which reinforced this trait.

Problem-Solving [Enjoys tackling problems, unafraid of challenges, gets more excited as problems grow larger, acts as the captain of the rescue team.]

This personality trait may develop from a childhood habit of taking hands-on action, solving problems independently, and not wanting to trouble others.

Ambitious [Craves uniqueness, stands out from the crowd, seeks praise, enjoys being at the center of attention, desires recognition and visibility.]

This personality trait may arise from not being seen and recognized as a child, leading to the constant pursuit of attention and visibility.

Confident [Believes in all decisions, “My destiny is in my hands, not in the hands of fate,” insists on making all decisions, even if there are risks.]

This personality trait may be innate, with a high proportion being “born with a mind of their own.” Their decisions have repeatedly proven correct, reinforcing their self-confidence.

Conceptual [Enjoys making associations, delights in the sparks created when different ideas collide, brainstorms alone, has a wild imagination.]

This personality trait may come from being alone as a child and having to think about whimsical things to entertain themselves.

Analytical [Enjoys solitude, deep thinking, likes to ponder the essence of things, first principles, the core, prefers practical insights.]

This personality trait may be mostly innate, with little commonality in childhood experiences.

Discipline, Responsibility, Fairness

This personality trait may be rooted in having family members who served in the military or growing up in a traditional and courteous atmosphere at their grandparents' home.

Analytical, Compassionate, Reflective, Associative, Commanding

This personality trait may have a primarily genetic basis, with little connection to childhood experiences.