Morgan Teachworth White, Cary M Hamilton
Being the perfectly imperfect parent is the goal.
There's No Such Thing As A Perfect Parent
It’s midnight, and I’m only now going to bed. This is after an hour of scrolling Reddit on my phone, reading a book, or watching a show. Before I close my eyes, I replay some of my day’s challenges. Did I do the right thing when my daughter was melting down? Did she get enough of my time today? Should I have held to or talked to the baby more than I did? I apologized after I raised my voice this morning, was that enough? Does my 3-year-old feel hurt? Was it okay to let her see my frustration?
I, like many, am an expert at criticizing myself. I know that sleep hygiene is important, so I should have gone to bed sooner. I know that meltdowns come from an unmet basic need -- I should have fed her sooner. I could have spent less time on my phone. I should have done the “narrate your day” technique for the baby’s language skills. Repairing the relationship is what’s most important, but still, I could have managed myself better and not yelled.
If you thought a child therapist would be the perfect parent, I’m here to burst that bubble. Despite the readings I’ve done, the degrees I’ve earned, the training I’ve attended, and the letters behind my name, I am still an imperfect parent. Regardless of your background, all parents need to know this -- There is no such thing as a perfect parent. There is not even a one-size-fits-all approach for parenting, despite what social media and that one relative insists.
You can use these tips to help you accept your flaws and be the best parent you can be.
1. Harness Your Experiences:
What have you learned from your parents? Whether your parents were spectacular, mediocre, or terrible, there is something that you can learn from them. Think about what your parents did well and where they struggled or outright failed. Consider these both from your perspective as a child then and as a parent now. There is a lot of good information you can use from your childhood. You may even discuss this with your siblings to learn from their perspectives.
What have you learned from others?: You learn a lot of things in school, but parenting skills aren’t commonly covered. However, you can still learn from the teachers’ who regularly interacted with you and other caregivers in your life as a child. You can seek advice from experts who write books, provide trainings, or who provide therapy. You can learn from observing and talking to other parents in your environment. Word of caution here, however. Some people like to offer unsolicited feedback on others’ parenting, and it can feel like being judged. Valuable feedback most often comes from a person you value or respect.
What have you learned from your children?: Tune in to your kids and let them teach you. They have lots of ideas about your parenting and the parenting they witness through friends and other caregivers they encounter. If they’re old enough, you can start a dialogue with them about their thoughts or reactions to a specific parenting event or decision. Otherwise, you can observe their reactions and behaviors, and listen to what they share freely about what they observe. Children also have individual needs, so each of your children will respond to the same parenting in different ways. You might be prompted to consider some things from a new perspective based on your children’s thoughts.
2. Cover the Basics: These may be basic, but that doesn’t mean that they’re easy! If you start incorporating these basics, you can know you’re helping your child.
Be a good role model. Your children are always watching and listening to you, so make the most of this. Say positive and realistic things about yourself if you slip up and say something negative. Label your emotions out loud and say how you’ll manage them if they feel out of hand. Apologize to your children and admit to making mistakes. Making mistakes is human - it doesn’t lessen you as a parent to admit this. The way you talk influences the way they think.
Love unconditionally. Show your children that you love them even when they make mistakes. If you separate a child’s behavior and actions from themselves, you can help grow a sense of self-acceptance and self-compassion. (“It’s okay to be angry, but it’s not okay to hurt others.” “I still love you even when you’re angry, but hurting other people is not allowed.”) This can be hard that is why it is necessary, your child's behavior is not a fault in your parenting- you are raising a HUMAN.
Spend time with them each day. We spend time on the things that matter, the easiest way to show your child they matter to you is to spend uninterrupted, undistracted time with them. Start by setting small goals that feel achievable, even if it’s just 15 minutes. Enter their world with only curiosity- no teaching, educating or correcting( they receive those things all day, every day!).
Give yourself grace. If you start to criticize yourself, stop and think. Would I say this to a friend? To your partner? To your child? Typically, we are kinder to others than to ourselves. So, practice self-kindness. If you do this out loud, your children will learn it too. (“I didn’t get everything done today that I hoped for, but that’s okay. I did my best.” “I wish I had not yelled when I was angry, but mistakes happen. Next time, I’ll try to calm down before I speak.”) Remember, they are always watching and listening!
No parent can be perfect - it’s just not possible! However, we can be great and imperfect parents by recognizing our flaws and using them to build an environment of acceptance for ourselves and our children. Each day is going to bring its own challenges, and each child will have their own needs. Some days and children may be more challenging than others, even if you strive for your best every day. Ultimately, we are human beings with flaws who are trying to mold other, younger human beings with flaws. There’s no room for perfection here, but there is plenty for growth and love.
At Playful Wisdom, we strive to provide you with science-backed parenting knowledge that you can apply to your parenting dynamic. We function from the belief that we are perfectly imperfect parents doing the best we can. We want to support you in knowing about human development, the parent-child connection(attachment), the brain-body connection(regulation), and play-based strategies to communicate your love and hope for your child -every day. We have our Foundations course to get you started and other courses coming soon to further grow your knowledge and confidence in your role as a parent.
written by Morgan Teachworth White & Cary M. Hamilton