We are taught to have compassion for others – what about compassion for ourselves? So often we shame ourselves for our parenting (or what we perceive are “lack of parenting”) abilities. Cut yourself some slack – give yourself a break! Those little buggers didn’t come with instruction manuals and chances are you’ve never parented before either.
“I must be an inadequate mother if I don’t take my children on adventures or new experiences like my sister-in-law (or fill in the blank).”
“I’m a terrible parent if I don’t prepare well rounded meals every day.”
“How stupid of me to forget to put their permission slip in their backpack. I’m so irresponsible.”
“I’m so busy with work that I don’t give my children the attention they need. I’m so insufficient as a parent.”
“I can talk professionally with adults all day long but I can’t communicate with my child—I’m so hopeless.”
“I think about business more than I think about my child – I’m so distracted and disconnected from my kids.”
“I feel overwhelmed with all the responsibilities on my plate that I sometimes snap at my kids. I’m so impatient with them and feel very inadequate!”
The truth is that most parents have “lost it” occasionally with their child/children. We snap at our kids when they annoy us, we ignore them when they want our attention, we yell when we’re angry. We ALL get it wrong from time to time. Did you read that? … we ALL get it wrong from time to time [I felt that needed repeating]!
So, let’s just accept that we are NOT perfect! What?! You heard me; we are not perfect. We are not perfect parents; we are not perfect people! If we can have compassion for our imperfection, we can more easily accept our imperfections as parents and apologize for our behavior. Read that last sentence again.
Not only do our children feel more loved when we apologize, they feel more cared for and it tells them that even Mama and Dad are imperfect human beings who sometimes get it wrong. AND, most importantly, that it isn’t the end of the world!!
As important as it is to apologize to our children when we’ve made a mistake, it is also important to avoid being overly critical of ourselves … especially in FRONT of our children. When we are hard on ourselves (self-critical), it communicates to our children that self-criticism is valued and is an appropriate response when we make mistakes. Do you really want your child to suffer from the harsh self-judgment the way you’ve modeled for them? Parents often don’t think about that.
You are probably very nurturing and supportive towards your child when he or she has made a mistake; but, if you tear yourself down whenever YOU mess up, you will send the wrong message to your child. However, if you show compassion for yourself by acknowledging your limitations in front of your child, you will provide a better example of self-compassion. Modeling self-compassion in front of your child is one of the most powerful ways to help them develop this skill for themselves.