Notice I say , WHEN you feel like a failure as a parent. Even the best parents have instances of failure. I have been doing the parent thing long enough to know there are days and there will be other days when I feel like a total failure as a parent. Ever said something that is really difficult to take back? Ever disciplined out of anger. Ever been disappointed by a choice, decision, or a behavior that you thought would never come from your child… even if she is 30 years old. What do you do when you feel like a failure as a parent? Here is a practical path for dealing with your feelings of failure in a healthy way.
1) Examine Yourself
It is important for us to examine ourselves in the midst of a disappointing situation. The best question I can ask of myself is, “Did I act in a way that made the situation worse or better?” As I dad I am learning that my attitudes and actions have a very real effect on all of my children. Did I carry the weight of the world home from work? Was I disconnected and distant or did I turn my attention to the family when I walked in the door? Do I listen to my children or am I quick to fix the situation without giving them a chance to share their feelings. If I did anything in the situation, I need to own it. Now hear this: owning it means quickly moving on to step two. You are likely a great parent who made a mistake. Don’t walk around in your failure. Don’t worry yourself into depression. Instead deal with it… seek forgiveness.
2) Seek Forgiveness.
Seeking forgiveness goes 2 ways. First, seek God for His forgiveness. You are not a perfect parent but He is a perfect Father who loves you. He knows your struggle. Seeking God for forgiveness aligns our heart with His. It’s like I, as an imperfect father, tap into my greatest resource… the perfect Father. In humility I find forgiveness, grace, and wisdom to know how to move forward.
Then seek the forgiveness of your child. If you have done something wrong in the situation own it. Be specific. For example, ask your child to forgive you for yelling before you knew the whole situation. Maybe its deeper than that but the principle still applies. Not only is this a step toward righting the wrong, you are also teaching your child by modeling humility. You are showing them how to make it right when they have done something wrong. In a sense, you are their living blog on the process.
3) Discipline Appropriately.
Don’t take discipline out of the equation just because you might have reacted the wrong way. If your child has done something wrong he should face appropriate consequences. Discipline is difficult work but we have the responsibility just the same. Make sure the discipline teaches and is healthy. Take the time to calmly explain to your child why they are being disciplined. No matter how they react, follow through. The discipline should be age appropriate. Ask yourself an obvious question. Is my kid 2 or 16?
4) Restore the Relationship.
After you have disciplined, work to restore the relationship. Hugs, kisses, words, and time. That’s my philosophy. Think of something you and your child love to do together and go do it. The child needs to sense that though the circumstances have not been great, you love them unconditionally. You communicate that with words, touch, and time. This is an important step in the process. Don’t leave it out. Work to intentionally restore the relationship. Depending on your child’s season of life and the situation it could mean anything from sharing an ice cream cone to initiating family counseling.
5) Understand… at the end of the day, our adult children choose their own path.
It’s difficult when our children grow up and choose a path we would not have chosen for them. I know so many parents who seemingly did everything right yet their adult children make life decisions not reflective of the training they received at home. As a parent it can be a devastating reality. Still we must choose to understand that children grow up to be men and women that at the end of the day make their own decisions. It does not take the pain away but it also does not label you as a failure. Be confident and pray. Know therefore that the Lord our God is God. He is the faithful God keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands. (Dt. 7:9)
On some days, we all fail. The Lord is faithful. Your efforts and intentionality will pay off. Proverbs, as a source of wisdom and not a promissory note, tell us that when we train up a child in the way he should go, in the end he will not depart from it.