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Am I a bad parent? How to start connecting to your child

Feeling Like a Bad Mother? You have Choices.

foundations Jul 24, 2022

You are feeling like a bad mother, but I want to tell you you’re not a bad parent. And just to prove it- here are some questions to start reframing parenting. (Especially if you're new at practicing positive parenting!)

Question 1: How important is it for you to feel connected to your child? 

Question 2: When do YOU feel most connected with another person?

Question 3: Would you value using everyday experiences to help nurture a sense of connection and trust with your child?

If you’ve felt overwhelmed or struggled to know when to use or practice positive parenting, you’re in the right place. The tools that I teach & coach are not simple tools for those pretty moments. It’s not talking in a sugar-sweet voice, and it is not saying please. It's about using everyday moments to impact your child's development and the parent-child relationship positively. 

 

Is it normal to feel like you're a bad parent?

Deconstructing the term "bad parent"

You might hear in a group of friends or have said things like “I’m doing my best,” “I didn’t mean to,” “I’m trying,” and “Well, I turned out fine”. These phrases focus on our intentions, which often come from a place of love and not being a bad parent. We can explain our actions with logic and reason. For example, “I yelled at you for getting a bad grade because I love you, and I don’t want you to be a failure.” 

Instead, I would like to invite you to focus on your impact as a caregiver. When we focus on the impact of our actions and words, then repair is possible, and we can attune to moments that we can connect or repair with the child. 

You are not a bad parent for making a mistake, and I am here to share that the best apology is changing behavior, healing those wounds, and repairing that harm to grow together in closeness.

 

You have control of yourself

The good news is that you, as the parent, are the model of what taking accountability looks like, and the question becomes, how do you want your child to respond after they have caused harm? 

When we focus on positive intentions, we may be leaving unrepaired relationship potholes. We spend a lot of energy trying to avoid those potholes and start to feel like we're walking on eggshells.  Unintentionally, what we're doing is modeling that behavior for our children.  

 

 How do you react after a mistake?

To stay aligned in our discussion, we will define a few words.

Intention: a thing that was intended as an aim or a plan

Impact:  have a strong effect on someone or something

Mistake: an action or judgment that is misguided or wrong  

Do you ever defend yourself in an attempt to avoid punishment or shame? I know this tool was given and used by me.

I talk a lot about this in my podcast episode “The Outcome of Punishments” Ep.1.6. We start to connect that making mistakes means that we're bad people by connecting mistakes with punishment or shame.

So, it is natural that we go to defend ourselves when a mistake or harm has been brought to our awareness. Common defenses include denial, blaming, projection, passive aggression, repression, and suppression. Actions include sighing, “fine. I guess I’ll just do it”, and “They made me do it.” These are natural ways to defend ourselves when we feel attacked.

Are you interpreting mistakes, feedback, and vulnerability as attacks? Are your defenses pinging in those moments with your children?

 

Mistakes do not reflect our values and morals

To dampen the pinging of defenses, we can invite ourselves to believe that mistakes or causing harm are not a reflection of our values and morals. It is human to make mistakes, it is human to feel anger, and it is human to yell, it is human to exhibit bad parenting behaviors. However, the reflection of your values and morals is seen in the steps you take after you're made aware of the mistake or harm. 

In those moments, are you inviting further defense and disconnection with your children, or are you modeling repair and connection?  

How you show up to hold this space with your children will influence how they show up in their own lives, friends, and relationships.  As they navigate the real world, this will be a tool in their toolbox.

 

Getting Coffee with a Friend

Let’s contextualize this a bit more. Imagine that you are out for coffee and chatting with your reconnecting with a good friend at one of your favorite bakeries. It is so lovely to hold space and connect with your friend, and while you're chit-chatting, you find a hair baked right into your cookie.  So, you share this with your server, saying, “Excuse me, I just wanted to let you know that I found a hair in my cookie.”

Below I will walk through four different responses from the server. Then, I invite you to check-in and reflect on what you are thinking, feeling, and deciding for each scenario.

Number one Denial Debbie  “Well, I'm sorry, but our bakers wear hairnets and hats to prevent this, so that shouldn't have happened”

Check-in: Does the fact that they use hairnets and hats solve the problem?  Do you feel seen, heard, and valued? What is Debbie's interpretation of you sharing the fact that you found a hair baked into your cookie?  How is that impacting your trust in the bakery?

My thoughts: I would feel upset. I would feel even angrier because I know that you have hairnets and hats, but there's still a hair in my cookie.

Number two  Blaming Bobby  “Oh gross, that's why I never eat the cookies here. They are the worst. The bakers never wear their hairnets, and that's why this keeps happening.”

Check-in:  Does the fact of sharing their experience helps solve the problem for you?  Does that help you feel seen, heard, and valued?  What is the impact of your trust?

Number three  Judgey Julie “I don't see the hair. Are you sure it's there? Are you sure it's not just your hair? Maybe it fell out of your head?”

Check-in: Does questioning the validity of the hair in your cookie help solve the problem? Do you feel seen, heard, and valued?  Do you feel like someone will be there to help you resolve your issue? 

My thought: I would feel left questioning,  “well, is that my hair?”  

Number four Connection Connor  “Oh no, I am so sorry. How disappointing for you and honestly embarrassing for us. How can we fix this? Would you like another cookie? Or a refund?”

Check-in: Does validating your experience and taking responsibility help to solve the problem?  Do you feel seen, heard, and valued? What is the impact on your level of trust with the bakery? 

My thoughts: Connor was able to hear your complaint and not take it personally but as an opportunity to step into holding, reflecting, and validating that moment for you.  

 

Connection leads to a positive impact.

The first step in using the C.L.E.A.R. Method is to connect.  When we show up in connection, it says, “I see you, I hear you, I understand your experience.”  I don't have to defend, and I don't have to elicit judgment, I don't have to blame, I don't have to find a reason. Replacing defense with validation can create a positive impact. That positive impact helps us show up to become positive parents. When we show up in those ways, we positively impact the development of the child and the development of the parent-child relationship. So, you’re not a bad parent, and you are in a safe place of awareness. 

 

What to do, if you feel like a bad mom?

If you have become aware that you are blaming your stress, the weather, and the kids, we can start to assess what is in our power and control. I want you to consider the following question:

What do you want your child's experience to be? 

When they find the hair in the cookie and share it with you, what is it that you wish their reflection is sharing those stress and struggles with you as their caregiver?   

Where are you resting or leaning on your intention? 

 

This work is deep and sometimes triggering. I am a parent coach who works with parents who want to do better with their children. My mission in life is to help parents feel supported and empowered to break harmful cycles. My programs work through the three stages of awareness, education, and practice through passive classes and active group coaching calls.                   

 

MegAnne Ford | Parenting Coach

Achieve Calmer, Happier Parenting with C.L.E.A.R. 

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MegAnne Ford a Parenting Coach with 20+ years of experience bringing joy into homes

I grew up in a home that labeled me as a difficult child. I became a teacher and quickly found that my inherited 'parenting' toolbox was unbalanced. 

I dug into the research learned from thought leaders and came up with a repeatable, learnable method, that is guaranteed to improve any parent-child relationship.

I began teaching the method to my student's parents and now to parents around the world. 

My passion is connecting with clients and modeling so that they can connect with their children in the hard moments. 

The Blueprint will give you awareness about why parenting your child has been difficult and give you your personalized plan on how to move toward joy.

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