We can be quick to judge our parents. There are so many things they could have done better. That is, if they had been better trained.

We tend to compare our parents -- at least during some stage in our lives -- with an ideal that virtually no parent measures up to. If we must compare them, perhaps we'd ascertain more by comparing them to ourselves, our spouses or our children (those we have an intimate knowledge of).

You may have children living with you as old as your parents were when they had you! You may date somebody who still has a lot more to learn than your parents did then. Or maybe, like your parents, you struggle to give your own child more than you had.

That's the best we can do -- try to make the most of what we were handed and move forward in a positive direction. Some things we can change overnight; others are more likely to take a generation.

If we are to be reasonable in our expectations and compassionate in our assessments, we must consider the starting point. We must look at the effort, the improvement and what was done well -- not just what fell short of our ideal.

In some cases, our parents were terribly ill advised or running scared. Getting over it and getting along with them is some of the most challenging relationship stuff we face. And just when we think we've worked through it all, we have an occasion to spend a few days with them!

Some reminders from your parents, borrowed from "Managing From the Heart" by Bracey, Rosenblum, Sanford and Trueblood:

H -- Hear and understand me.
E -- Even if you disagree, please don't make me wrong.
A -- Acknowledge the greatness within me.
R -- Remember to look for my loving intentions
T -- Tell me the truth with compassion.

Parents are people, too.

While single and contemplating when -- and, finally, if -- I would have a child, I was older than my mom was when she had the last of six children. I can hardly fathom six! My dad was at work much of the time; somebody had to give my mom grocery money.

I'm not suggesting you view your parents through rose-colored glasses, but rather that you take all the glasses off. That's the only way to see them clearly with their "mistakes" and triumphs … and learn to understand, forgive and truly love them.

"I don't want to say something bad about my father," a client told me, unable to hold back the sobs. For years he tried to reconcile his own behavior with the beatings. He was still thinking he must have done something wrong -- not just as a child or a teenager, but even as a middle-aged man.

When he saw a beautiful woman with somebody else, he still said to himself, "Where's mine? I must have done something wrong."

He was still wondering why he couldn't have fun like the other "kids." He was still thinking that if he hadn't done anything wrong, his father must have been a bad person … and that triggered immense pain.

His father wasn't a bad person; he was scared, scared to death that his second son would turn out like his first one.
Even devastating behavior is not the work of bad people; it's the work of scared people. And it's much easier to love a "scared" parent than a "bad" one.

To have healthy relationships with our parents -- or with anybody -- we must be willing to look at the truth, which only seems ugly when we look at isolated fragments. When we face the truth and begin to understand it, we begin to move toward love.

As children, we couldn't see the whole truth. We can see it now, without making our parents bad or leaving them on a pedestal. We can love them better -- perhaps better than they loved us -- and be better parents, and people, as a result.

Author's Bio: 

Jan Denise is a nationally syndicated columnist, author of the just released "Innately Good: Dispelling the Myth That You're Not" and "Naked Relationships: Sharing Your Authentic Self to Find the Partner of Your Dreams," speaker and consultant based in McIntosh, Fla. Please e-mail her at jandenise@nakedrelationships.com, or visit her website at nakedrelationships.com.