Do You Feel Like A Parenting Failure?

by | May 4, 2021 | Family, Mental Health, Tips

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parenting failure?

Many of us feel like a parenting failure every once in a while. Is that you? Parenting is a lifelong process that comes with no job description. Parenting skills are often unappreciated by our children and by our partners. Are you overwhelmed with parenting? You are not alone. The last parenting book I read made me wish I could go back in time to relive my younger parenting days. I reflected on all the mistakes I made as a parent and wanted a “do over.” Sadly, none of us gets a “do over” with parenting. But we also don’t have to feel like a parenting failure.

anxious woman with hands on side of head

What Is Parenting Failure?

Feeling like a parenting failure is the sadness you experience when your family life isn’t meeting your expectations. Parenting failure feelings happen when you don’t know what to do about the problems your children have created. You blame yourself. Parenting failure happens when you feel unfulfilled as a parent and try to avoid spending time with your children. You start to wonder if you were cut out to be a parent. Mommy guilt becomes a common struggle. You want to raise your children right, but you feel like what you are doing isn’t working.

Why do you feel like a parenting failure?

The causes for feelings of parenting failure are many and varied, so I have grouped them into three categories, Home Life, School Life and Personal Life.

Home Life

If your home isn’t functioning as you expected it to, you will feel the mommy guilt because of parenting failure.

  • Screen time is a common issue. Do your children use screens too often or are they surfing sites that are inappropriate? Are they challenging your rules about screen time?
  • Food is another source of conflict. Are you providing healthy meals? Are your children good eaters or picky eaters? What can you do to improve their habits?
  • Behavior is a major source of feelings of failure. If your children are disrespectful, ill tempered, or unruly, it is natural to blame yourself. Children’s misbehavior towards you and towards others causes embarrassment.
  • Relationships in the family also cause feelings of failure. If your children don’t get along with one another or you have a strained relationship with your child, feelings of failure occur.
  • Poor decisions children make also cause parents guilt. It is difficult to let your child learn from their mistakes, especially if the mistakes are public.
School Life

When we send our children out into the world, they are a reflection of our parenting. School is the first place where children are independent of us. Therefore, your child’s success at school, is important to you.

  • Grades your child receives become a way you may judge if you are parenting well. If your child does poorly in class you feel it is your fault for not helping them more.
  • Social skills at school create conflict for children. This conflict can cause parents to feel they failed. If your child has trouble making friends and being kind, it becomes a reflection of your parenting skills.
  • Behavior at school also reflects on your parenting. Getting a message from school that your child is misbehaving brings about feelings of failure. No one wants their child to be the one bullying another student.
  • Teacher relationships can also stress your parenting feelings. Parents hope that their children will be loved and cared for by other adults. Teacher’s feedback about our children can make a parent feel guilty.

Make your kids feel independent and capable, not entitled

Amy McCready
Personal Life

Your own personal life can make your feel like a parenting failure.

  • Social media presents many families as a fairy tale, perfect family. Are you comparing yourself to these unrealistic families?
  • Physical fitness impacts parenting health. If you are critical of yourself, physically, you may carry that critique into your parenting failures.
  • Lack of support for your parenting can cause you to feel lonely and isolated. Do you have a supportive partner? Do share your worries and questions with other parents?
  • Emotional and mental health is essential to combating parenting failure. How do you care for yourself in these areas?
  • Work schedules can create parenting stress. Guilty feelings emerge when parents struggle to balance family life and work life.

How to combat the feeling of parenting failure

First, determine the cause. Use the lists above to reflect on your family and your parenting. Which of these items describes the causes of your feelings of parenting failure? Remember, your feelings aren’t right or wrong, but what you do about your feelings is up to you. Once you determine the cause for your feelings of failing as a mom, you are ready to overcome those feelings. You are ready to start a road to recovery.

Second, pick one of the causes for your feelings of parenting failure and decide to improve that area only. By choosing just one cause, you have a good chance for success and you begin to build for future success.

The third thing to do is to set a goal and tell a friend. When we set goals and tell someone else about the goal, we are more apt to achieve our goal. So don’t skip this important step.

Resources for reaching your goal

In order to reach your goal you will need to make some changes. You can’t wave a magic wand and fix the problem. One way to learn new skills is through parenting books. I have three to recommend.

read a good book

Hunt, Gather, Parent by Michelle Doucleff is the book that made me want to redo my parenting. She investigated ancient cultures to find out how they practiced parenting and came away with great advice to help you raise a happy, well adjusted child. The book advocates for creating a cooperative verses competitive household. She presents techniques for building trust and eliminating fear as a parenting strategy. It is a helpful guide and easy to read.

The second book is The Me, Me, Me Epidemic by Amy McCready. This book is full of useful ways to improve your parenting. I especially like the focus on improving the parent/child relationship. Parenting and family life are essentially about teaching kids how to have successful relationships in life. So, this emphasis on relationship building has implications for many of the causes of feelings of parenting failure.

The third book, 21st Century Parenting by Rick Capaldi is terrific especially if your goal is to raise resilient, confident and self-reliant children. It is full of practical advice that is relevant to 21st century families. He uses the tools common in today’s society (like apps and GPS) and applies them to parenting skills.

Find A support network
Mother and child hugging outdoors

Another important step to reaching your parenting goals is a support network. When I was a young mom, I had a group of friends who were also raising children. They were a valuable resource and support on those days when I felt like a “bad Mom.” In fact, one friend and I used to share our latest “mean Mom” tales with one another as a way of soothing our guilt. You can create your own support network if you don’t have one. Many Community Education Centers and local churches have Parenting classes or Mom’s groups. Sometimes there are others right in your neighborhood who would love to connect.

Finally, another way to reach your parenting goal is to work with a Parent Coach. Raising your children well is the most important thing a parent does. It makes sense to invest in doing it well and accessing good advice. Parent coaches are an impartial voice of advice, encouragement and support. Think of it as a fitness coach for the family.

In closing, I just want to remind you that your feelings of parenting failure really mean that you care deeply about being a good parent. Look at all the positive things in your family and concentrate on those. Don’t give in to feelings of failure.  

by Lisa Reichelt, M. Ed., Parent Coach

Do You Feel Like A Parenting Failure?

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