When You Feel Like a Failure as a Parent

“Parenting is the hardest thing you’ll ever do.”  You’ve heard people say that many times, but when it really gets hard, you somehow still feel surprised, jilted, and hopeless.  You think about the times when you dreamed of having children, and when it felt so romantic and wonderful to raise small people into adulthood.  Then your precious babies turned into mouthy unpredictable meanies, and all your optimism just floated out the door.

Here are four things to tell yourself, and your spouse, when things get hard:

1. No  one could be a better parent to these kids than we could.  We’ve loved them from the beginning, and will love them forever. We have a unique spot in their world.

2. All parents go through this.  Even though you think your friends and neighbors don’t have to put up with what you do, they do.  They’re just hiding it because they’re judging themselves.  If you and they could stop that judging and start sharing with compassion, you’d know how universal this phenomenon is.

3. Love isn’t always “unconditional positive regard” in the words of psychologist Karl Jung.  Sometimes it’s the avoidance of screaming.  Sometimes it’s walking from the room when you want to hurt somebody.  Sometimes it’s biting your tongue when you know you’re right, but saying so would only result in a power struggle.  Sometimes it’s “being the adult” when everyone else is acting immaturely.

4. It’s not all about you.  Two-year-olds assert themselves with “no” because they are discovering their individuality.  Seven-year-olds get sassy because they suddenly have a bigger picture of themselves in the world.  Fourteen-year-olds start to have one foot in adulthood, and need to find you ridiculous to expand themselves into their new-found abilities.  Child development is always at play, and your children’s behavior is NOT always a reflection of your parenting.

Being a parent means rising higher than the low level in the room, showing restraint and respect even when the opposite is coming your way.  It means setting the example of maturity, even when your inner three-year-old is yelling for justice.  It’s not easy, but it’s the most worthwhile thing you’ll ever do.  And when you need help, parent coaching can support you.  You are not alone.


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