As a mom to three girls and as a child therapist, I’ve read piles of parenting books. My parenting philosophy has changed dramatically over the years. When I landed in the realm of “Positive Parenting,” I was hooked. I knew instinctively this was how I wanted to parent.
Unfortunately, putting the methods in place was a different story.
There are days that I speak calmly, kindly and lovingly to my children. We share hugs, stories and laughs. But, there are days when I overreact to a spilled bowl of cereal, impatiently rush people out the door to school and forget everything about responding positively to my tantruming four year old.
After these negative interactions, I criticize myself as a parent. It’s as if I expect immediate positive parenting perfection.
It was only recently that I started to see that the road to positive parenting is not a smooth, paved path. Instead, it is rocky and uneven. There are days it will be easy and days when I’m exhausted from trying to stay on track. And, that’s ok. In fact, there are some advantages to traveling this rocky road.
Benefits of Imperfect Parenting
- We can be intentional. In order to stay on the right track, we need to pay attention to every step. We can’t just skate through this parenting gig. Having a mantra such as “Hug first, then correct” or “I can be calm” can help us stay focused.
- We are not stuck in old patterns. When our kids see us learning and trying new skills, we can inspire them to be learners too. We don’t have to be tied down by the ways we used to parent. As we come across a new technique, we can put it into practice.
- We can struggle. Instead of being superheroes to our kids, we can be super-normal. We can show that even grown-ups mess up and then we have an opportunity to show them how to apologize and repair a relationship.
- We can feel tired. Trying something new takes time, patience and perseverance. Rather than feel guilty or frustrated, we can admit our exhaustion and do what we need to do to get back on track. Self-care is not always easy, but it helps us be better parents.
- We can ask for help. Acknowledging that the road is difficult gives us permission to ask for help along the way. Other parents have struggled with the same stages, behaviors and challenges. Seeking out support can help us feel less isolated.
- We can offer help. Since we already know how rewarding positive parenting can be, we can walk beside other parents who are struggling, confused or frustrated. It doesn’t mean we have all the answers or do it perfectly, but that we can relate and empathize.
- We can feel proud. Offering our kids a listening ear instead of a critical lecture or making the choice not to yell is a huge accomplishment, especially when we’re feeling stressed, tired or alone. Let’s celebrate our successes!
Smoothing the Path
Shifting my focus from expecting perfection to expecting challenges, the path has actually seemed a little less rocky. While I would love to implement patient, consistent positive strategies all of the time, I realize that I am not perfect. My kids are not perfect. My life is not perfect. I’m not giving up, I’m just exchanging my roller skates for a good pair of hiking boots.