Parenting is the best job you could ever have. It’s also the toughest. By far. Not that this is breaking news to you, but I know I find it reassuring to hear it from someone else.
Yet, if you’re like me, hearing about how difficult this parenting thing is is not enough. You want it to be easier. You want to get better at it. You want to screw up as little as possible.
The problem? By its very nature, parenting is the ultimate breeding ground for mistakes. Raising, protecting, teaching, and caring for another human being – and doing these things well – is incredibly difficult. You’re gonna screw up. Lots and lots of times. Here are just some of the mistakes you can expect to make as a parent:
- failing to discipline your child
- losing your temper
- not listening to your child
- avoiding conflict with your child for the sake of temporary peace
- letting your actions contrast with your words
- micromanaging your child
- inconsistency in how you respond to your child
How you handle these mess-ups is often more important than the mess-ups themselves. Based on everything I’ve seen, heard, read, and experienced, I have found that successful parents make lemonade out of lemons by doing two things with their mistakes:
- They learn from their mistakes.
- They let go of their mistakes.
These two are obviously not the be-all and end-all of parenting tips, but doing them has made a world of difference in my life, as well as in the lives of my kids.
1. Parenthood is the ultimate classroom in which you can learn from the good and the bad. Learn from your mistakes.
Next time you make one of the mistakes mentioned above, remember this: Making mistakes is natural, but fixing them and then learning from them is not. Here’s how you do it:
- Admit your mistake to your kids.
- Reflect upon your actions, carefully analyzing what you did and why.
- Actively pursue better parenting methods.
- After reflecting on your actions and the new info you’ve gained post-mistake, do everything in your power to do better next time.
The benefits of using your mistakes as learning tools
Not only will following these steps allow you to learn from your mistakes and fix any damage that’s been done to your relationship with your child, it will also make you a superb role model for how to deal with mistakes.
By preaching within your home that mistakes are opportunities to learn, your kids can learn important lessons that include:
- messing up is a part of life,
- it’s possible to survive mistakes, rather than be defeated by them, and
- they can pick themselves up off the floor after they’ve messed up.
Your kids will begin to resemble you in that they admit their mistakes, make amends with anyone who’s been hurt by their mistake, reflect on how and why they made their mistake, and try hard to do better next time.
If you look at it that way, you can see why some parents view mistakes as golden learning opportunities.
2. They will only bring you pain, anxiety, and guilt, so let go of the mistakes you’ve made.
Every mom and dad regrets something they have said or done. Or something they didn’t say. Or didn’t do. So if there’s something that has been eating away at you, now is the time to forgive yourself and move on.
Forgiving yourself for parenting mistakes will help relieve you of the stress, guilt, and anxiety you may be feeling, and will allow you to focus on the present more than the past.
Why we are so hard on ourselves as parents
Making some of the mistakes described above – especially in the heat of the moment – is natural. It is part of what makes us human.
But when we make mistakes, and then view those mistakes in light of the unrealistic expectations put on us by ourselves and society, is it any wonder we feel guilty?
Whereas our parents only had to deal with the probing eyes of their neighbors and closest friends, we are seemingly under constant scrutiny as modern parents. Social media has allowed everyone with an opinion to make that opinion known, and they have the ability to judge everything we do and say. And yes, many of these folks do judge everything!
You might feel as though you are doing a fantastic job as a parent, only to read a random article on Facebook that criticizes the very thing you thought you were doing right. Or perhaps someone felt the need to enlighten you regarding the flaws of a certain parenting technique of yours, and now you feel like absolute garbage. We’ve all been there.
Next, you fall into a pattern of questioning every single thing you do and say as a parent. Modern parenting is more difficult than ever, and the type of unsolicited critiquing I described above is one reason why.
The effects of holding onto your mistakes
Yes, we parents are the ones who carry the bulk of the weight of guilt from past mistakes. It has multiple negative effects, which I’ll discuss in a minute. But we are definitely not the only ones whom it affects: our kids are negatively impacted when we hold onto our mistakes.
As parents, we often feel bad for our mistakes, and beat ourselves up because we know we could have done better. This is completely normal.
But on occasion, we can feel so guilty that we end up feeling anxious about each and every thing we do and say. We can even fall into a state of depression. This is not good for us, either physically, mentally, or emotionally. And it’s definitely not good for our kids.
They don’t get our best when we are in a negative frame of mind. We are less patient than usual with them. We are overly sensitive to their words and behaviors. We are more prone to engage in poor parenting when we allow the guilt from past mistakes to haunt us.
So how do we let it all go?
How you can let go of your mistake – and all the guilt that comes with it
Letting go of a past mistake and all the guilt that comes with it doesn’t have to be a long and drawn out process. You can take steps that help you to immediately begin moving on.
You have to make amends with whoever was hurt by your mistake. Have that talk in which you own up to what you said or did. Tell them you are sorry, and that you want to make things better. That you will make things better.
And don’t be afraid to ask for forgiveness. The forgiveness of others is often what fuels the fires of closure and healing, so ask for it. Receiving someone else’s forgiveness often allows you to forgive yourself.
Turning your mistake into something positive is another way to move on from all the negativity of that mistake and its connected guilt.
Decide that your mistake is going to be a source of learning, self-awareness, and self-improvement. Decide that you are now a better person because you made the mistake.
Taking this positive approach is another surefire way to leave behind the mistake, as well as all the bad vibes associated with the mistake.
Moving towards a parenthood filled with more learning and less guilt from the mistakes you most definitely are going to make
Once you’ve forgiven yourself, sought forgiveness from whoever your mistake hurt, and turned the bad of your mistake into something good, take a proactive approach to avoid future guilt. You can accomplish this by doing the following:
- Never forget that parenting mistakes and the guilt that comes with them are normal.
- Stop chasing the impossible dream of parenting perfection. None of us are going to achieve that, so bless yourself with the gift of realistic parenting expectations for yourself.
- Be proactive in communicating your feelings. Express your thoughts and feelings so that you can more easily transform them into positive actions.
- Find yourself some form of a support system. It might be a friend or relative who is a parent. Or maybe it is an online community of parents. They’re out there. We’re out there. For example, here’s a Facebook group I created. We are moms who share a love for our music and have decided to pursue it full-time. We’ve got each other’s backs, and it’s a wonderful thing.
If you’re a parent, you’re going to mess up. Sure as the sun will rise, you’re going to make mistakes.
The good news is that you can – and you will – overcome those mistakes and turn them into something positive by learning from them and taking the steps necessary to let them go.
Best wishes on your journey towards parental learning, healing, and closure!