“Did I ever blow it last night. I’d asked Shawn to take out the trash by 7:00. He kept putting it off and I finally lost it. I can’t believe what came out of my mouth.
I knew I was tearing him down. In fact, I almost felt like I was my mother at one point and he was me. It was as if time had re-wound.
But the worst part was how Shawn looked at me. My boy looked devastated; I might as well have thrown the real garbage at him – one piece at a time.”
Oh, How Painful
Parenting can be oh-so-painful. Just because you are further along in years and experience does not exempt you from moments of poor judgment and impulsivity. Like children, parents also make mistakes. Many factors can contribute to any one guilt-inducing incident. Chronic or situational stress and/or unhealthy interactions from your own childhood, as stated by Maria, can add to a parent’s struggle.
Oh, How Unfair
All of this can seem unfair. Parents are responsible for taking fresh, fragile human beings and raising them into mature mini-adults. This is no small task. You are “supposed” to know how to do this intelligently – without making mistakes. If only this were true. So many times I have heard parents say they wish their kids came with a manual. Mistakes, if repeated over and over, can impact a child’s emotional health along with the parent-child relationship. This is truly serious work.
Oh, How Human
Despite the title “Parent,” you are still a human first. And humans are imperfect. You make mistakes. And although you strive to avoid making errors, it is important to realize that usually it is not the error itself that has the greatest impact on your children. Rather it is how you handle the fallout from the mistake that is most important.
You can look at mistakes as gifts – not necessarily the ones you wanted, but maybe ones that you needed to help you discover something about yourself. You may learn that when pushed or stressed, you revert to unhealthy ways of communicating. You may need to add new, healthier skills to your range of parenting techniques.
Mistakes can also reveal that something is lacking.
Perhaps there is a need for:
- a schedule for chores or homework,
- a plan to decrease stress in the home,
- a specific time for family members to connect,
- “down time” for a child after an activity,
- regular free time for the parent(s).
Ask yourself if the same mistakes seem to be recurring. Do things fall apart at certain times each day or week? There may be clues in the patterns that reveal unmet needs.
Oh, How Hopeful
When you do make mistakes – and most of us will continue to do so, there are skills or methods to which you can turn. All is not lost!
- Take a time out for YOU. When you are about to lose your cool or even if you have already blown it, give yourself permission to step away for a few minutes and regain your composure. You can tell your kids, “I need a few minutes to calm down and then we can talk about this situation.”
- Admit your mistake and then ask for forgiveness from your child. “I am sorry I reacted so harshly. I care about you and did not mean to scare you with my yelling.” In addition, be willing to forgive yourself and move on. This is healthy modeling.
- Talk with a trusted friend who will truly listen and not shift the focus to her own story, give unsolicited advice, or pass judgment on your behavior.
- Write about the experience, what happened, and how you might have handled it differently. List options to consider for the next time the situation occurs. Most kids will provide you with many opportunities to address the same issue if you just give them a little bit of time. You might use a journal to keep track of your progress.
Remind yourself that millions of opportunities exist to interact in healthy ways with your child. You can mess up several thousand times and still be ahead!
“Last night was trash night again. This time I decided to leave a silly note on the cookie jar with choices for Shawn about when to take the can to the curb. I signed it from Oscar the Grouch.
My son smiled and groaned, and then he took out the trash. Before he went to sleep he turned over and said, ‘Mom, thanks for not doing that trash talk today. I like the note better. Good night.’”
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