No parent is perfect. As much as we try to be the best dads and mums we can be to our kids, we sometimes fall short.
Maybe you have a bad temper that makes it hard for you to rein in harsh words and ultimatums. Or perhaps you find it hard to remember things, like that extra diaper or wet wipes, and wouldn’t you know it – that’s the day your daughter decides to do a massive poo explosion all over the car seat. We all suffer from mummy guilt and daddy guilt, don’t we? But truth be told, feeling guilty never helped anyone.
Here are ten ways to make the most of your mistakes and slip-ups, and get better at the task of parenting.
1. Don’t cry over spilt milk
There is really no point at all crying over spilt milk or having a pity party for yourself when things don’t go as planned. While we are not saying you should bottle up all the emotions that come along the way, it’s best not to dwell on the negative instances, because these things all add up over time. You can trust us on that! By all means be honest with how you feel, but don’t allow your emotions to consume you. Every person has their own way of managing their feelings. For example, you could write a journal, blog, paint, listen to music or call a friend. Then, move on.
2. Don’t look back
We can’t right every wrong or transform ourselves overnight into someone we’re not. No matter what has happened, the fact is that we cannot change the past. Feeling regret and trying to analyze problems can sometimes turn into an unhealthy obsession to be that perfect parent – which is just not possible. Don’t over-analyze and criticize yourself and your child. Oftentimes, there are many unpredictable factors at play in any given situation. Focus on the future.
3. Resolve to choose differently – have a Plan B
Do consider what you could have done better, and how you would want to react if something similar happened again in the future. Then think through why this would be a better way of responding to the situation. Having a game plan is great, but it’s even more important to be convicted of what you are seeking to do.
4. Don’t compare
It is all too tempting to compare yourself with your friends who are parents. By all means, seek out others who have been in your shoes before and thrived, but don’t judge yourself by their standards. You should also keep in mind that no one really sees what happens behind closed doors or inside a person. For all you know, your friends may be struggling with intense issues of their own.
5. Read widely
There is so much literature on parenting out there, waiting to be read. Read with an open mind, and read different perspectives before arriving at your own convictions and conclusions about all manner of parenting issues. Follow mummy blogs that don’t set up a perfect, unattainable standard, but which are real and offer practical advice for the average parent.
6. Celebrate every milestone
So your son used to whine and fuss every time you dined outside, because he gets easily restless while waiting. You tried reading him a book, but that proved futile. The offer of a pre-meal snack seemed helpful at first, but you soon realized it meant he wouldn’t eat his “real” food when it came. After searching the web, you came up with some age-appropriate hands-on activities that you could bring out with you to keep him entertained while waiting for the food to arrive. That first meal where the wait is peaceful and happy, celebrate with some chocolate cake for dessert. Even better, share that cake with him! After all, it takes two hands to clap.
7. Be the adult – don’t share everything
There is authenticity, and then, there is foolish rambling. Your child is, at the end of the day, still a child. He’s not ready to hear about every nuance of your frustration, every detail of how things didn’t go as planned. Yet we adults sometimes treat our kids like “little adults” in the name of being transparent, and offload all our feelings and fears onto their little minds. Firstly, they probably don’t get it. And secondly, it’s not their burden to bear, really.
8. Get help when needed
Sometimes we are too proud to ask for help. Don’t be. Part of learning from our mistakes is realizing when we just lack the wisdom or skill to do something, or have our capacities are limited. By all means, try, try again, but also know your limits, and recognize when it’s time to ask for the help that you need.
9. Remember what works
It’s easy to zoom in on what went wrong and dwell on how to avoid something similar happen again. Here’s a suggestion: instead of focusing on how to avoid the bad, think about the good. In other words, recollect those times when the bad didn’t happen, and reflect on why that was so. Sometimes, the solutions to our problems don’t come from analyzing the issue at hand, but on remembering the good bits.
10. The journey matters as much as the destination
Sometimes it feels like you’re going one step forward and two steps back. Don’t worry – you will still get “there” if you do not give up. Remember, too, that this journey of parenting failures and successes is a priceless experience that is part of the privilege of parenthood.
By Dorothea Chow
This article was first published in The New Age Parents e-magazine