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How to move on when you get it wrong as a parent

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I recently did something that I am not proud of: I lost my temper at one of my children. Big Time. I screamed at my teenage son when he wouldn’t do what was asked of him. Not only that, I followed him upstairs continuing to yell at him as I sent him to his room. Inexplicably, I even kept it up as he complied with me and went to his bed in a flurry of tears. It is not easy for me to sit and write these words, and acknowledging my uncontrolled anger makes my stomach feel sick and tears spring to my eyes.

It doesn’t really matter what it was about. Like most 13 year olds, my son is certainly good at pushing my buttons and viewing the world as solely revolving around him. He was in the wrong, and wasn’t doing what was repeatedly asked of him, but really there are many other ways to deal with this sort of (admittedly common) behaviour.

Because I am the grown up. I am the mother. I aim to live every day in alignment with my core beliefs of connection, joy and love. I even did a Masters in Child Psychology for the love of God! I certainly know better than this. I know yelling doesn’t work. I know that all I proved to my son on that fateful afternoon was that I can yell louder than him and make him cry.

Maybe you have been here too. Maybe like me, you have walked away from an altercation with your child with your heart hammering in your chest, tears streaming down your face, and thought to yourself, ‘I am a terrible mother, this is so hard, I have no idea what the hell I am doing. Why on earth did I just do that?’

So how do you move on when you get it wrong?

First up is space. My son needed space from me, not more words, and I certainly needed space from him. We both needed time to calm down and process what had happened before we talked about it. I also needed to have a good cry in private, make a cup of tea, and quietly reflect on my own behaviour.

I acknowledged to myself that I make mistakes. I am an emotional person. I can be hot headed. I am less tolerant when I am tired. I am less tolerant when there has been lots of bickering going on in my household. I know these things about myself. I am definitely not perfect: as a mother, a wife, a friend, or as a life coach. I am only human.

But you know what I didn’t do? I didn’t beat myself up. Well, maybe I did a tiny bit, but then I quickly moved on. Does one parenting fail negate all the times I am a good mother, or dare I toot my own horn and say, a freaking awesome mum most of the time? Of course not, yet this is often what we focus on: the one bad story, instead of the myriad of good experiences we have with our children.  We are so quick to point out our own flaws and fixate on them, instead of congratulating ourselves when we get it right, and giving ourselves a pat on the back for doing a damn good job nine times out of ten.

So what did I do that afternoon after I wiped my eyes, drank my tea, and took a few deep cleansing breaths? I treated myself like I would my best friend in the same situation. I forgave myself. I thought of some strategies for how to better deal with frustrating teenage situations (of which no doubt there are many more to come!) I gave myself love. I gave my family my love. I hugged my daughters, and told them how much I love them. I explained that mum had made a mistake, but like any mistake, you learn from it and you move on. I upped the self care, and treated myself to an early night to bed with a good book.

And to my teenage son? I wrote him a heartfelt letter, and left it on his nightstand to read when he first woke up. I acknowledged what had happened, apologised for it, and emphasised that we are both always learning, and when we get it wrong, we forgive each other and come back to our core truth: that we love each other, and no matter what happens in his life, I will always have his back.

How did he respond? No words, just a lanky body that woke me up early the next morning by slipping into bed next to me and wrapping his long arms around me and burying his head in my neck. I know I am a good mum doing the best I can, and the proof was lying right next to me squeezing me tight.

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This post was hard for me to write, but I know I am not the only one to get it wrong as a parent on occasion. How do you move on after you get it wrong?

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27 Comments on How to move on when you get it wrong as a parent

  1. Felicity
    November 18, 2015 at 2:11 pm (1 year ago)

    Brilliant article Mel. Parenting is so rewarding but also challenging at times. Loved your approach and appreciated your honesty. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  2. Lisa
    November 18, 2015 at 3:32 pm (1 year ago)

    Loved this post Mel,
    This time of year is filled with lost tempers for me with my boys – and everything you wrote resonates. I often move on by apologising – but sometimes feels as though it’s falling on deaf ears (to my 8 year old who’s eyes glaze over often at the sound of my voice). I’m going to try a letter instead. Thanks for the inspiration .

    Reply
    • Melissa Jeffcott
      November 21, 2015 at 3:25 pm (1 year ago)

      Thank you Lisa, I do think boys don’t ‘hear’ a lot of what is said to them, so the letter approach can work really well on occasion. Best of luck getting through the silly season! xx

      Reply
  3. Emma
    November 18, 2015 at 4:27 pm (1 year ago)

    Great post .. You may have just described my reaction at times .. ?.. The idea of a letter was good

    Reply
  4. Kerstin
    November 18, 2015 at 7:15 pm (1 year ago)

    Hey Mel,
    great writing. Absolutely loved reading every single word.
    Very brave to share this experience but loved how you dealt with it. Inspiring!
    The letter idea is brilliant. Great tips in between the lines too. And love the way you painted the picture of his reaction. I may have welled up a bit reading the second part. Loved it … and squeezed my two that little bit tighter singing their good night songs. So, thank you for that little wake up call. Kinda feel like a glass of vino and a chat with you sometime. 😉

    Reply
    • Melissa Jeffcott
      November 21, 2015 at 3:27 pm (1 year ago)

      Thank you so much Kerstin, I really appreciate your lovely comment and happy to catch up sometime xx

      Reply
  5. Deb @ inner compass designs
    November 18, 2015 at 8:32 pm (1 year ago)

    Great post thanks for sharing your experience. I screw up often and always apologise, try to learn and grow, same as my kids. Xx

    Reply
    • Melissa Jeffcott
      November 21, 2015 at 3:27 pm (1 year ago)

      Thank you Deb, none of us are perfect that’s for sure! 🙂

      Reply
  6. Karen
    November 18, 2015 at 9:21 pm (1 year ago)

    I love the letter idea. I’m going to do that the next time I fall short . Thanks for that heartfelt post xx

    Reply
    • Melissa Jeffcott
      November 21, 2015 at 3:37 pm (1 year ago)

      Your very welcome Karen, and I think on occasion a letter works really well xx

      Reply
  7. Dorianne
    November 19, 2015 at 5:51 pm (1 year ago)

    Hi Mel. Loved your article and your honesty. Parenting is the most rewarding, most important, yet most difficult and all-encompassing relationship in the world! We all deal with these emotional outbursts sometimes and just knowing that it is completely normal helps. The way we come back to a happy place in our parent-child relationship is key though, so thanks for the letter idea. X

    Reply
    • Melissa Jeffcott
      November 21, 2015 at 3:39 pm (1 year ago)

      Thank you so much Dorianne, your comment is very insightful and completely true! xx

      Reply
  8. Caylie
    November 20, 2015 at 9:37 am (1 year ago)

    Oh you made me cry so much with this post Mel. Thank you for sharing and for being my dear friend. I don’t honestly think I could do this job without my wonderful womenfolk to remind me that I’m not alone and can always say sorry and change my ways.

    Reply
    • Melissa Jeffcott
      November 21, 2015 at 3:43 pm (1 year ago)

      Oh Caylie, I don’t want to make you cry, but thank you so much for your love and support. Here’s to good friends who are always there for each other, near or far! xxx

      Reply
  9. Simone Russell
    November 21, 2015 at 5:18 pm (1 year ago)

    Oh Mel what a beautiful, heartfelt post. The thought of your son climbing in for a hug brought me to tears. How lucky you and your son are to have each other. The idea of a letter is brilliant. xx

    Reply
    • Melissa Jeffcott
      November 22, 2015 at 8:04 pm (1 year ago)

      Thank you so much lovely Simone, I am truly blessed with my wonderful family x

      Reply
  10. Jo @ You had us at hello
    November 23, 2015 at 3:10 am (1 year ago)

    Aw! I loved that he gave you a cuddle, even at 13. The letter is such a great way so say what you really mean. Love it! Hope those cuddles keep coming xx

    Reply
    • Melissa Jeffcott
      November 24, 2015 at 9:33 am (1 year ago)

      I know Jo, they are definitely on his terms, but I appreciate the cuddles all the more because of it! 🙂

      Reply
  11. shannon @my2morrows
    November 23, 2015 at 8:50 pm (1 year ago)

    This is just beautiful Mel. So glad you shared this. We all have not so perfect mum days and this is lovely to read and know I’m not alone. Xx

    Reply
    • Melissa Jeffcott
      November 24, 2015 at 9:34 am (1 year ago)

      Thank you Shannon, none of us are perfect and you are definitely not alone! xx

      Reply
  12. Sonia Life Love Hiccups
    November 26, 2015 at 7:11 pm (1 year ago)

    I frequently screw up and it is honesty likes yours that helps me keep the guilt at bay. Thank you hun xx

    Reply
    • Melissa Jeffcott
      November 29, 2015 at 4:39 pm (1 year ago)

      You are so welcome Sonia, there definitely needs to be more honesty about the difficulties of being a parent! xx

      Reply
  13. Bron from Flat Bum Mum
    June 21, 2016 at 8:04 pm (10 months ago)

    Ohhh, I love the idea of a letter. That is so tangible and memorable. I think the lanky bed hug said it all.

    Reply
    • Melissa Jeffcott
      June 23, 2016 at 2:25 pm (10 months ago)

      Thank you Bron, yes I think boys in particular can only take so much ‘talk’ so a letter can work really well to convey how you feel.

      Reply
  14. Karin @ Calm to Conniption
    June 21, 2016 at 9:12 pm (10 months ago)

    All I know is that this parenting gig is the hardest I have ever had and I have had plenty of stuff ups. Acknowledging that you are not entirely happy about what has just gone down within yourself highlights just how good a parent you are.

    Reply
    • Melissa Jeffcott
      June 23, 2016 at 2:24 pm (10 months ago)

      Thanks Karin, yes there is always something new to learn, that’s for sure!

      Reply

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