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Mistakes in Parenting

“Parenting is not about raising children who never make mistakes. It’s about being a safe place for them when they do.” – @simplyonpurpose

Learning from mistakes 

The list of “mistakes” we can make in parenting seems endless.  We feel guilt and shame around the daily decisions we have to make:  we let our baby cry it out or we didn’t allow our baby to cry enough; we let our toddlers eat something that wasn’t organic; we allowed our child too much screen time; we let our teen stay up too late… Parents also hold on to guilt around the times we really lose it, and yell at or shame our children.   Recent research indicates that feelings of shame or guilt around parenting choices and reactions  are all too common. In fact, new research by Farm Rich reveals American parents feel an average of 23 pangs of guilt every single week over decisions they feel weren't quite up to standard.   The research also spells out what parents say are their biggest regrets or mistakes: 

  1. Losing my temper

  2. Not playing enough with my children

  3. Not being home enough

  4. Letting my children have too much screen time

  5. When I don't feel like I'm being a good role model

  6. Not being able to take my children on more vacations or outings

  7. When I don't have time to make home-cooked meals

  8. Not reading enough to and with my children

  9. Letting my kids eat junk food

  10.  Working too much

If we respond to these “mistakes” or feelings of guilt by internalizing the belief that we are a “bad” or unworthy parent, this may show up in difficulties connecting with and responding to our kids, especially  when they make their own mistakes.   

If we respond to these feelings of guilt with self-compassion and a growth mind-set, we set ourselves, and our kids, up for healthy relationships, the skills to handle frustration, and the resilience to overcome setbacks. 

“I often wonder if we speak so harshly to ourselves when we make a mistake because that’s how we were spoken to when we messed up as kids.” – Shelly Robinson

Some ideas for moving on from parenting guilt and ruminating on mistakes: 


  • Assess the situation - does your perception of the severity of the mistake match the reality?  How was your child impacted? 

  • Acknowledge the guilt, or whatever emotions arise, catch the story you are telling yourself about the situation, and know that these thoughts and feelings make sense.   Then, use this activation/energy to make a plan for the next time. 

  • Own your mistakes, and commit to repairing with your child.  This is also a wonderful opportunity to model coping skills.    This can look like: “I’m really sorry I yelled this morning.  That must have felt scary for you.  The next time I am feeling stressed in the morning, I will take a few breaths and check my tone.” 

  • Make time for yourself.  When we are depleted, even small mistakes seem huge.   Making sure your own needs are met will mean you have space for your mistakes, as well as your children’s inevitable blunders and behaviors.  Remember it’s ok to lighten up, and even laugh at yourself sometimes.   This parenting thing is crazy difficult, and sometimes the best thing we can do is laugh and find joy in the craziness.   

Parent coaching is a safe place for exploration of beliefs around mistakes, guilt and shame.   If you long for a more peaceful home, one where mistakes are expected and accepted, check out our services page here   

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