Let’s all be honest. Parenting is full of opportunities for failure. Every parent fails at one time or another. Every parent–some more frequently than others– regrets their behavior or wishes they could take back their words. Every parent makes a choice or moves in a direction that ultimately ends in them feeling like they’ve fallen flat on their face as a parent.
Parenting is hard, full of emotions and misunderstandings and after a particularly difficult conflict, moms and dads may feel like they were failures as a parent. Parents who struggle with depression or anxiety may feel this even more severely.
I’ve been a parent for 33 years and I will tell you that I had a lot of face plants in those years. I said things I immediately regretted and I’ve done things I hated myself for.
However, parenting face plants are not the problem. The problem is how parents deal with the inevitable failures that will come. Here are a few things I learned that helped me get back up from falling on my face and continue to parent with purpose and confidence.
Remember why you care so much.
If you didn’t love your child so ferociously, you most likely would not care so deeply about your parenting endeavors. Parents second guess themselves because they want the best for their children and they want to see them grow up happy and safe.
So give yourself a lot of credit: You love your kids and you truly want the best for them. That’s why you care so much.
Parenting is a looooong conversation.
And when I say long, I mean at least 18 years long. One failure today is not going to necessarily negatively impact your child for life. The same goes for one good conversation.
When I was pregnant with my second child, my first child was 2 and for the first 3 months I was miserable. I spent many mornings laying in bed and made frequent trips to the bathroom to throw up. All I could do was lay there and watch my daughter as she watched cartoons or Sesame Street. I felt guilty for letting the TV babysit my child and I prayed she would not grow up feeling neglected, even though I was constantly telling her I loved her.
But that was only a short season and soon my energy returned and life resumed normalcy. To this day, my daughter does not remember those three months at all. What I needed to understand is that not every negative or positive situation is a defining moment in our parenting. Actually, defining moments are few and far between. Most of our daily “fails” and conversations are not defining, they are just part of a long parenting conversation and the sum total of them will be what shapes our kids’ character.
Author Bonnie McClure from Psychcentral.com says it this way:
It can be very tempting to slide down the shame spiral of one moment and forget all the other lovely things you’re doing right. It is likely your mistakes are really far and few between compared to the positive memories you are making. It is just that successful moments can be harder to recall while in the throes of a mistake. But when considering the quality of any interpersonal relationship, one could not base this on a singular moment. Instead, we learn to develop a trust in the other person as a whole and have respect for their values as they are demonstrated over many different interactions in many different contexts. I can believe and remind myself that my children will experience the good and the bad of my motherhood, with hopefully more success than mistakes.
Parents are the Model.
As parenting expert Sue Atkins says, “There is no such thing as a perfect parent, so just be a real one.”
One of the best gifts you can give to your child is show them how to forge through failure, how to learn from mistakes, and how to get back up after falling flat on your face. Your kids need to see you being real.
My dad was a wonderful father, but I rarely saw him admit mistakes and handle failures. I’m sure he made them, but he hid it well and didn’t talk about them much. I wish he had been more vulnerable and taught us how to recover from failures because I had to learn to deal with mistakes later in life with very few tools.
When you fail, make a mistake or end up in a parenting face plant, remember that you are not the only one learning a lesson; your kids are too. They are watching you when you get mad and say things, then later come back to apologize. They see you mistreat the clerk and then later tell them you’re sorry. They observe your poor choice and watch as you learn from the consequences of that choice.
You are modeling face plant recovery 101 to your kids every time you make a mistake. Your children need to see this; they need to know how to proceed when they do the same thing. This does not excuse parenting mistakes; however, it does give parents the motivation to handle face plants in a healing and healthy way.
You will feel like a failure because you love your kids so much, but remember that your parenting is defined by 18+ years, not by one mistake and your children will be better prepared for life as they watch how you handle life’s face plants.
If you’d like to talk more about how to handle your parenting face plants, please schedule a free into call here.