My kids get away with murder when I feel guilty

Q & A

What is the best way to recover from the mistakes I make as a parent?  I hate yelling at my kids, yet it seems to come so easily.  Afterward, I get angry at myself.  Then I let them get away with so much because I feel guilty. Help!!!

I get it!  I’ve been there and return to this place from time to time.  The answer is… to love yourself anyway!

The following story is from my book, The Connected Parent: Uncovering the Hidden Peace.  I hope it sheds some light on this topic for you!  (And for those of you who have been asking, I am hoping to have my book in hand in the fall!)

One evening close to bedtime, my son came to me requesting that we write a story together.  I enthusiastically jumped at this opportunity, knowing it would be a special time for both of us.

My job was to scribe as he dictated the story.  It started in the woods… a 3 year-old boy was living on his own because his parents had died (yes, the thought of projected issues crossed my mind, but I was able to put those aside for the moment).

As he got into the story, my ego kicked in.  I first saw what an amazing, naturally occurring chance for learning was happening.  We would be able to edit it together, type it on the computer and maybe even publish the book to give as a gift to the grandparents.  As my thoughts went in this direction, I made a content suggestion to my son that sounded like this, “Why don’t you make the child older?  There is no way a 3 year-old could live on his own in the wild.”  Every time I tell this story, I feel a bit embarrassed that I so easily slipped into ego thoughts during my son’s creative moment.  He did not allow this to slip by, with good reason. What he heard was, “Your idea stinks.  It’s not realistic, and it’s stupid.”  And possibly even, “You’re stupid” because sometimes it is difficult for kiddos to separate their actions from themselves.  He screamed and threw a book across the room.

Immediately, I knew what I had done.  I couldn’t take it back.  The guilt flooded in as I felt I crushed my son’s idea and his spirit.  While he pouted, I said I was going to get dressed for bed and then come back in to see him.

During this time, I had a revelation!  Yes, I had made a mistake.  And, I chose to love and forgive myself anyway.  I unintentionally fell into an old pattern of prioritizing my ego agenda rather than being in the moment with my son and I still loved myself.

I was also keenly aware of what typically happened following a mommy mistake.  The guilt led to me allowing my kids to manipulate a situation (i.e. moving bed time back so we can have a sweet, tender and llloooonnnnggg conversation.)

Upon returning to my son, I came in and lovingly yet firmly said, “I apologize for correcting your story. You were being creative and jumped in with a comment that seemed insulting.  I understand if you never want to write with me again.  And, I also want you to know that if you do decide to try this again, I will try my hardest not to do that again. I love and forgive myself for making this mistake and we are not staying up any later than your regular bedtime.”

He was stunned.  Mostly, I think, because he could feel that I had forgiven myself.  He went to bed peacefully and though I did not request it or expect it, I feel he forgave me.

We have since worked on similar projects and had a blast.  The best result is that my son gets to be in an environment of self-love and self-forgiveness.  He gets to experience what it is like to be in the presence of one who loves and forgives.  I also noticed a beautiful shift in my son… he started to use and eraser!  This may seem trivial.  However, in the past, he had a pattern of great upset and tearing artwork to pieces when he was not able to produce on paper what he imagined in his mind.  Big progress!

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