I've worked as a psychologist specialising in kids and teens for 20 years. I've seen hundreds and hundreds of families and young people. I've read a lot of research. I offer a lot of advice. More than one client has said to me, "I just wish I could take you home so you can do this stuff at my house"
But just in case you think I've got my own parenting totally figured out, I offer you this little insight into what actually happens at my house. Here are the parenting mistakes I make time, and time again.
1. I yell
When I'm in the office, I have the patience of a saint. I can have 5 children destroy the office, have major meltdowns, take 20 sessions to understand one concept, refuse to do their therapy homework and I don't blink an eyelid. Not one raised heart beat. Honestly, I'm totally zen. :)
But when I walk in the front door of my home - my patience somehow disappears into thin air. I get frustrated so fast. I say things I regret. I talk in a harsh tone. And I raise my voice....a lot more often than I care to admit.
2. I forget to be proactive
I know that teaching skills is the most important way to change difficult behaviour with children. More importantly, I know that teaching skills BEFORE the skill is actually needed is what really counts.
Kids struggling to manage conflict - need to teach conflict resolution methods before the argument happens. Kids forget to bring their jumper home from school - need to teach reminder methods on the WAY to school. Kids struggling to stay in bed and get to sleep - need to rehearse get to sleep plans and strategies at tea time and not at 9pm.
I do this sometimes. Honestly. But I also repeatedly try to teach my children things at the TOTALLY wrong time.
Right at the point that I'm frustrated.
Right at the point they are panicked, annoyed or not listening.
Because I forgot to do it earlier. Face-palm.
3. I run out of time
Here's what I say to parents at the office: children process information slower than we do. Children and teens move slower than we do. Kids and teens have more trouble with focussed attention than we do. Time moves at a different rate for young people compared to adults.
And then, I get home.
Me: "Guys, go, go - we have 3 minutes to clear the table, get changed and get ready for chess club. Put your shoes on! Hurry! No, turn it off. No you can't save! No! Now!"
It's SO relaxing.
I run out of time way too often. I schedule too much, I have high expectations for what I and my kids will be able to get done. And at times, we all suffer because of this - my own dumb mistake.
4. I forget to be in the moment
"Appreciate the moment", "Enjoy their age/stage", "Remember how quickly this time will go". I hear a lot of people talk about this idea of really paying attention to our children and to ourselves. Yep I get it. Mindful parenting. Brilliant. Totally agree. Smart.
I also forget this. Constantly.
I'm caught up in the crazy-ness of life, the day to day frustrations and the disappointment of parenting far too often. I so often fail to stop and notice the wonder of my kids.
So, there are a few of my parenting fails just for your bemusement. For the record, I am working on all of these things. I think I'm better than I used to be. But if you feel guilt about your own parenting sometimes, I want you to know - you are not alone. We all (whatever our day job/background/personality) make mistakes.
Let's be kinder to ourselves as parents. Next time you yell, forget to be in the moment, run out of time, forget to be proactive - or any of the other parenting stuff you do you are not proud of - take a second to:
- Take a breath
- Say to yourself: "its okay. you're trying. Its tough"
- Be kind to yourself.
You might then have the emotional energy to apologise and start again. Parents who are kind to themselves are kinder to their children.
If you want some support in coping with the difficulties of parenting, feel free to click here for information about our counselling services.
Developing Minds News:
RARE PUBLIC SEMINAR: Kirrilie is running a "Calm and Confident Kids" seminar for parents of primary school aged children at Hawthorndene Primary School at 7pm on the 17th of June. All are welcome. The seminar will cover:
- Helping children manage worry and stress
- How to help children cope with tough times
- Strategies for helping children act in confident ways
- What to say and not say to children when they are stressed, angry and worried.
Cost is $10 per person. Any enquiries, contact Maria on 0417 889 456