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Recovering from Parenting Fails

Parenting fails happen and can make you feel terrible as a parent. Learn new perspectives and ways to recover from parenting fails, on HealthyPlace.

Parenting fails are better thought of as parenting mistakes. While the term is common and used loosely online, real “fails” are extreme errors with dire consequences. A true parenting failure usually results in parents losing their kids. A parenting fail is an incident in which you make a mistake; this isn’t failure as a parent.

Honest parenting fails are, perhaps surprisingly, positive opportunities for parents and kids alike. Additionally, you can recover from your errors and mishaps. If you’re looking for ways to bounce back from your own mistakes as a parent, read on.

What Are Some Examples of Parenting Fails?

Mallory, a young, first-time mother, shares her story of a parenting fail that made her feel guilty and like the world’s worst parent.

“As I walked with my toddler, I held her hand to keep her safe. I tripped and sprawled across the sidewalk. Because I was holding her hand, my daughter also fell and slid on the concrete, scraping her fingers, wrist, and arms. My fail ended up being minor in the long run, but in the moment, I felt so guilty and like a complete parenting failure.”  

There are many other types of parenting fails. Some involve thinking patterns. One that is common to nearly every parent is being hard on yourself for your mistakes. Beating yourself up and thinking in terms of “should” (you “should” have done something differently, you “should” be more patient) keeps you in your head, feeling bad, and not fully present for your kids. This perfectionistic thinking is itself a fail. Kids don’t need you to be perfect. They need you to be their mom or dad ("‘Good Enough Parenting’ Has Its Time and Place").

Comparing yourself to others is a similar thought trap that can make you feel like a parenting failure. Watching other parents and finding ways you don’t measure up is a parenting fail that makes you miserable. Bemoaning “Person X would have…” and “Person Y could never…” or, even worse, “Why can’t I be more like Person Z?” Acting like yourself instead of copying other parents is never a fail; however, negative comparisons are a failure in that they undermine your confidence in your ability to raise your children.

Parent guilt at following through with a consequence is a fail you don’t have room for in your family life. If you told your child that you two couldn’t go to the movie if he didn’t clean his room, and then he chose not to clean his room, by following through with your consequence, you’re teaching important life lessons. Sure, it’s disappointing to both of you to miss the movie, but it isn’t a fail and doesn’t warrant parent guilt. Be proud that you are teaching responsibility, that actions have consequences, and you’re not a pushover.

So many incidents daily can cause parents to focus on their fails. Mistakes, though, can be positive.

Parenting Fails Can Be Good for Both Parents and Children

When parents make mistakes, it helps kids develop in mentally healthy ways. It helps moms and dads grow as parents, too. Some ways that fails are good:

  • Your imperfections give your kids permission to be less than perfect, too.
  • Mistakes teach kids how to handle their blunders and life’s ups and downs.
  • They create an opportunity for laughter. Seeing the humor in an unexpected problem provides stress relief for everyone and helps kids avoid taking things too seriously.

Even when your perspective is positive and you acknowledge that kids learn from your mistakes, fails can still sting. You can turn a bad situation into a better one and recover from parenting fails.

How to Recover from Parenting Fails

Your attitude and actions are important. They demonstrate to kids how they can respond to their own fails, and they help you bounce back quickly after a misstep. Consider these tips for slip-up recovery:

  • Remember your relationship with your children. Building and preserving that is more important than mistake-free parenting. Healthy relationships mean loving each other despite mistakes.
  • Reflect on your fail, identify what when wrong, how you handled it, and how your kids reacted. How will you respond differently next time? Then let it go.
  • Yes, there will be a next time. When you’re experiencing parent guilt or are worrying over a mistake, remember that mistakes happen. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to change your actions in the future.
  • Forgive yourself. You forgive your kids and start over fresh with them. Do the same for yourself. It’s good for your self-esteem and mental health, and it’s good role-modeling for your kids so they can do the same.

Parenting fails happen. It’s okay that you make mistakes because you and your kids can grow from them. You can recover from parenting fails in a mentally healthy way (read some Parenting Quotes for inspiration.).

article references

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2019, July 4). Recovering from Parenting Fails, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 22 from https://www.healthyplace.com/parenting/parenting-skills-strategies/recovering-from-parenting-fails

Last Updated: September 12, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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