Let’s start by getting our cards on the table – we’ve ALL messed up parenting! Mistakes are part of life and no matter how hard we try to listen to our kids and treat them fairly, there will be times when we lose our rag and yell things we shouldn’t.
We see red. We shout. We lose objectivity.
The guilt when you’ve messed up parenting
Then it passes and, if you’re anything like me, you dissolve into a puddle on the floor as you realise you’ve messed up parenting again…
The guilt creeps in. You re-live it all over and over. You know you should have dealt with it better. And your brain “helpfully” replays all the other times you’ve failed at parenting too just to rub it in even more.
“What’s the point?” You think. “I’m never going to be any good at this.”
Well, you’re not alone. We all have days when we go from cheery to cheesed off in the blink of an eye. We all want to throw the towel in because we’ve messed up parenting too many times.
So if that’s you – or that’s sometimes you – then this post is for you!
What to do when you’ve messed up parenting
1. Say sorry
I know there’s a lot of debate about this one, but here are 3 quick reasons why apologising to your kids is important:
- To teach our children that they deserve to be treated respectfully and kindly
- To stress the point that anyone not treating them respectfully is in the wrong
- Because we can’t claim to see our kids as equal humans if we think ourselves too important to need their forgiveness
2. Think what you could have done differently
Evaluations help you iron out problems! So think through what happened:
- What led up to the blow out?
- How could you have handled it differently?
- Could you have intervened earlier?
- What would have been a better outcome?
3. Don’t beat yourself up
Accept that everybody makes mistakes. Feeling guilty about losing your temper won’t fix the situation (in fact it could make it worse – see point 4).
I’ve written before about the importance of creating time-limited consequences for our kids (we need to deal with the issue and then forgive and move on)… Well apply that to yourself too – say sorry, and then leave that failing in the past.
4. Visualise a happier outcome
This is sooo important.
Brains are designed to reuse the thought pathways that have been used the most in the past. So if you spend a lot of time thinking about how badly you reacted, you’re more likely to react badly again next time because that’s the most accessible pathway.
You need to redress the balance and imagine it going right. Create a new “most popular pathway”!
Be positive – imagine a new approach and picture how that would work out differently. The more times you imagine it, the easier it will be to access that pathway in the heat of the moment!
Here’s a 2min video on Neuroplasticity if you’re not sold on this idea yet…!
5. Don’t give up
It can be tempting to think, ‘I’m not calm enough to do gentle parenting,’ or ‘I’ve messed up too many times,’ but don’t give up.
Gentle parenting takes practise, just like any other skill. And it’s especially hard because the challenges of parenting change so rapidly as our kids develop and grow. I don’t think it’s possible to be the finished article. But keep trying. Keep pushing. Keep growing.
It’s worth it!
Be a positive coach
And it all boils down to this: The principles of gentle parenting aren’t just for kids – you need to gentle parent yourself too!
- Use empathy to appreciate why you reacted that way
- Treat yourself kindly and fairly
- Deal with the mistake and then don’t bring it up again
These are all things we’ve discussed on Lucy At Home in a child-context, but adults need a positive, supportive coach too! The trouble is, as an adult, you don’t have someone external to do that for you – you have to be that coach for yourself.
So encourage yourself. Forgive yourself. Reassure yourself. Inspire yourself. Believe in yourself. Be attentive to yourself. Be kind to yourself. Respect yourself. And coach yourself with the same patience, understanding and love that you use with your children.
You’re worth it… and so are they. xx
Do you struggle to forgive yourself when you make a parenting mistake? What are your thoughts on apologising to your children? What advice would you give a friend who was feeling down about their parenting fails? Let’s help each other out and share our stories – join the conversation by adding a comment below.
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