When You Feel Like a Horrible Parent…

A few weeks ago I brought my boys to get a hair cut despite their Samsonite pleadings to spare them such inhumane torture and emasculation.  As we waited, a 7 year old boy, receiving a hair cut was jerking about, and screaming on his mothers lap as she tried to control him. I remember the look on his mom’s face: sad, embarrassed and powerless.

Others around me communicated their disapproval to the mom and staff nonverbally with eye rolling, huffs, puffs, shaking heads and folding of arms. To their credit it was not your “typical day at the salon.” As most 7 year olds have adjusted to the haircut experience, I was certain the child had developmental delays. I looked directly at the mom, smiled and said loud enough for everyone to hear “It’s OK, he’s just afraid he’ll walk out of here looking like me (bald)! She laughed as she fought back tears of relief that someone noticed and eased her shame.

Not every parent has a special needs child. But we’ve all experienced parental shame—times when we feel like a horrible parent. This feeling is deflating and disempowering—buying into it leads us to feel helpless and resigned. This is not good for the parent or the child. When you feel discouraged as a parent, remember:

“Parent” is not synonymous with “Perfect”. Of course you’re going to make mistakes, even some biggies. No one expects you to be perfect (except you)—even your child. Give yourself permission to make mistakes and course correct.

No one has it all together. Not even the experts. Every family has “issues.” Looks can be deceiving. Just because people don’t talk about their parenting foibles doesn’t mean they aren’t happening. They are. To everyone. Trust me.

Good Parents raise Good Kids Who Still Make Poor Choices. One of the great mysteries of Christianity is God’s audacity to give us a free will. That doesn’t start at adulthood—it is in us from the beginning. Young people make decisions for a variety of reasons many of which have little or nothing to do with you.

When Kids Feel Your Love for Them, They are Resilient to a Multitude of Parenting Mistakes. When young people know we love them, through spending time with them, involvement in their interests, setting healthy boundaries, keeping tabs on their whereabouts, specific verbal affirmation of who they are and are becoming in addition to their accomplishments, they aren’t ruined by a bad incident once in a while.

Doing something your parents did, which you vowed never to do, does not mean your child’s experience of that is like yours was. Just because your dad worked a lot and you felt cheated by not having enough time with him, does not mean that your hectic work schedule will contribute to your child feeling cheated. How do you spend your time not at work?

Read good books and blogs. Read old stuff as there is wisdom out there that is never dated. Read current blogs to stay abreast of youth culture trends, behaviors and interests. Audio books are a great source of information as well.  One book I’m reading now which I love is by Bill Doherty called Take Back Your Kids. Very counter cultural, well written and helpful. Another great book by Dr. Bob McCarty is  Raising Happy Holy Healthy Teenagers. 

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  1. dina segura says:

    I bet that mom was a bit relieved that your comment took the pressure off of her situation. That was kind of you! If all of us would be the best version of ourselves, the world would definitely be more peaceful. Thanks for posting!

  2. Christian says:

    Speaking as a parent of 5, plus 2 grandkids, this is a first-class list.

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