3 Parenting Goals for an Imperfect Parent


I recently spent three days far away from the city. Though I was surrounded by thirty other women, this was no “women’s retreat”. We each agreed to walk through the dark places in our life in the hopes of breaking the things that were stopping us from living out our parenting goals.

As each of us shared our emotion-filled stories of what was holding us back I heard again and again how much our parents played a part {positively and negatively} in hurdles we were facing. Two truths rang out :: no one has perfect parents, and no matter how many parenting books we read, we are all going to mess up our kids to some extent. 

Weaved into each of our unique childhood stories were three common areas {or themes} that really stuck out as parenting goals for me. 

3 Parenting Goals for an Imperfect Parent

Acknowledge Their Feelings

As a child {and also as an adult} I was told that crying made me appear too dramatic. I needed to “stop being emotional and get back to the task at hand”. After a long day I’ve been known to say, “You need to stop being emotional, this isn’t the time for drama” to my middle child. Admitting that makes me cringe, but also shines the light on where I need to focus attention. It is okay to have feelings and feelings are not always negative. A quick, “What is causing you to feel upset?” is a great way to help her start being able to express her feelings in words. 

Setting aside time each day to check in with my girls and ask them how they are feeling is important and will be beneficial to them for years to come. 

Explain Decisions Made on their Behalf

3 Parenting Goals for an Imperfect ParentAs many of us do, I make adult decisions every day that I don’t feel I need to talk through with my children. When it’s time to make dinner I don’t believe I need input from each of my children on what we eat. I do believe that when I need to stop one of their extracurricular activities that I need to sit down and give them the reasons {appropriate for their age} for why we as a family are making that decision. 

I’ve learned that it is also very healing to go back and explain things, like a divorce, to my daughter eleven years after her father and I split up. At the age of seven she could not grasp the adult issues that caused our relationship’s demise {and it was also a very heated subject for me}. As she has aged, and I have healed, I have been able to share with her the reasons we chose to divorce. I’ve been able to tell her my part in the breakup and she has also been able to hear her father’s side. 

Learn to say “I’m sorry”

This has been very important to me while raising my daughters. I can be snappy when I am stressed or very tired, and I normally have to say, “I am sorry I was loud with you. Let’s start this conversation again.” Those are my everyday apologies and some days I say “I’m sorry” numerous times. 

I’ve also had to apologize for very large things. My oldest daughter walked through the consequences of my bad decision making for a few years after my divorce. Again, I had to give her an age appropriate apology in the moment, but I have since gone back and discussed with her the reasons for my decisions. 

Although I welcome, and even suggest, that my daughters seek out therapy when needed as they get older.  I hope that being mindful of these three parenting goals will lessen their need to cross big hurdles regarding their mother. And if they tell me, “You really messed me up” I’ll know I am not the only mother whose child feels that way.

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