It may be the most frequently asked question I’ve had since I began my career. Some form of “Am I a bad parent?” It crosses the minds of parents….a lot.
If your child is in therapy, it doesn’t make you a bad parent. Struggling with anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, or anything else you can think of doesn’t make them a “bad kid.” We all struggle to some degree at some point. If they have a broken leg or a bladder infection, strep or pneumonia, I bet you’ll take them to the doctor. Right? Right. Although we’ve decreased the stigma around mental health, it still exists. Here’s how I see it: you go to the doctor when you’re sick, you go to the physical therapist for injury recovery, a speech therapist helps you improve your speech – and a counselor helps you to feel the way you’d like to feel. That’s it. If you’re reading this, I’m betting that you’re at least open to the idea, and that says a lot in and of itself. We all struggle at some point, and sometimes we just need a little extra help.
Kids are tough to figure out. They just are. And you can’t read your kid’s mind! (For the record, adults can be pretty tough to figure out, too.) That means you will do and say the wrong things sometimes, no matter how well-intentioned you may be. In other words, you will mess up – and that is okay! We all know that real life is different than Social Media World, where we pick and choose what aspects of our lives we decide to share with everyone else. Just to be completely transparent, I’ll share a little bit. I have a 3-year-old little boy who I love more than I can describe. I often tell people that I make a parenting mistake before we even get out the door for preschool most days. You know – too lenient or tough, too much or not enough reinforcement, poor communication, woke him up too late, dropped him off too early, and on and on and…..you get the picture. And he’s not even a teenager yet!
So, if you can’t figure your teenager out, what do you do? If you feel like you need to change some things, where do you start? How about starting with giving yourself some credit? There are plenty of people who will give you a hard time, so take a minute to look at the things you do well. The truth is that when we’re so hard on ourselves, our mood can suffer. When our mood is affected, our energy level, irritability, sleep, and plenty of other aspects of our functioning can be negatively affected. That can have a trickle-down effect to our kids. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Here’s an example:
“See, I knew I was a bad parent. I didn’t even get up to get my daughter to school on time. And she has finals. And this may ruin her 9th grade GPA. Now she’ll have to work so much harder for the next 3 years.”
This example illustrates the usefulness of giving yourself credit instead of a hard time. Mistakes happen. You don’t have to beat yourself up over a mistake (Does this sound like something you’d say to your teenager?). But let’s say you do wind up in this situation. You care about your daughter’s grades, and you ran like your hair was on fire to get everything ready so that you could somehow get her to school faster than humanly possible. Oh, and there are make-up exam days.
To sum up everything up, I want to tell you something really important. If you’ve read nothing else in this entire article, I hope you read the next sentence.
You do not have to parent perfectly in order to be a perfect parent.
Whether it is your first child or your 10th, you will always be figuring it out, and that’s just part of the joy, struggle, frustration, pride, and so many other emotions of parenting. So keep rocking it!
Keep an eye out for a 5-part series on bullying, which I decided to write after contributing to the News 2 WKRN-Nashville special segment on teen mental health. Feel free to sign up on the Home page for email updates on things like new articles and media. I promise not to go months without writing again!