When your child is born, you stare into their face, wondering how you could ever get mad at such a perfect little human. Then life sets in, your perfect little baby starts to become an expert on the pronunciation and repetition of the word “no,” even when it is completely inapplicable to the conversation. Slowly, your endless patience, kindness, and gentleness towards your child seem to be running on empty. The ideas you had of what kind of parent you would be have been adjusted, and with that, your confidence in your parenting may be wavering. If this sounds familiar to you, there is hope. You are not a failure and you are not alone!
We can all agree that we are not perfect parents. So what now? What do we do with our mistakes? Here are a few steps you can take towards personal development and strengthening your relationship with your child.
- Practice Self-Compassion – Give yourself some grace! Life can become a pretty heavy burden if we wake up with the expectation to be perfect in our actions and interactions. It doesn’t take long before we’re impatient with our children, annoyed with our partner, or spill coffee on our brand new white pants (guilty on that one!). Each day will be filled with successes, challenges, and mistakes. These do not define who you are, but provide opportunities for learning. Think about the things you are telling yourself in your mind. A good rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t say it to a good friend, don’t say it to yourself. (For More info on Self-Compassion, see Dr. Kristin Neff’s website Self-compassion.org)
- Take Time to Work on Yourself – If you notice you’re making the same mistakes …well, 1. You’re a normal parent! and 2. It may be a sign that it would be helpful to take a look into yourself and your past to evaluate why you may be responding this way. How were you disciplined growing up? How is this influencing the way you respond to and discipline your children? What is currently going on in your personal life? Do you need time for self-care (more than simply binge watching a Netflix show)? This could be a great time to invest in yourself and your personal growth through beginning counseling, confiding in a friend, or reading a book!
- Apologize to Your Child – Use each situation and mistake as opportunities to grow your character and teach your child. One benefit of hardships and personal mistakes is that they often provide greater opportunities for learning than if life is free of challenges. Yelling at your child because they accidentally knocked over your fresh cup of coffee can turn into a perfect situation to model your own use of coping skills and humility, and to teach reconciliation through apologizing. Modeling can do wonders for teaching your children a healthy response to mistakes. Reconnecting and having reconciliation in your relationship with your child will help you both regain emotional regulation and peace in yourself and the relationship (1).
You can do this!
Written by Courtney Thompson, MA
The Whole Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, Siegel & Bryson, 2011, Delacorte Press- Random House Inc., New York
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