The other day I wrote this in my journal: I yelled a lot today. I feel like a failure. How much damage have I caused my children by having a complete breakdown and not being able to control myself?
I am guessing I am not alone in this thought process and the question of "how have I failed my children by doing this thing, or not doing this other thing?" But I think the bigger question is why are we constantly asking this of ourselves? As I process the hard days and evaluate where I went wrong, I start to see that maybe my headspace is where things may be going sideways.
What is failure when it comes to parenting?
What a powerful question and one I am sure every parent has asked multiple times. At the end of the day are your children shown love, fed, have a warm bed to sleep in, and feel safe and secure? This is success. Anything else is not a failure, it is a learning process.
We are conditioned and bombarded with the ideal ways of parenting. Everyone has their opinion of what "successful" parenting actually means. From the second we are in the labor room or wherever you chose to birth your children, we are making incredibly hard choices with many voices telling us why one or the other is better. Breastfeeding v. formula, what kind of diapers to use, co-sleep or not, same room or separate rooms, etc. We all know that list could go on and on.
This conditioned thinking extends into how we parent. Is it ok to yell, what about spanking, hard love, let them cry it out, pick them up right away and love on them, time outs or time in's, etc. Again this list could go on and on. A lot of the conditioned thinking stems from society and generational beliefs on what we should do and how we should act as parents.
The bottom line is, life is hard and parenting is even harder. We are not given a handbook on parenting. Even if we were given a handbook, it wouldn't be of any value because each child is so different that how we parent our oldest varies from how we parent the middle and youngest children.
Let's change the narrative and the mindset around "failing our children." We as parents are human, we have feelings, we lose control, we may yell, we will cry, we will be happy, laugh and play. If we are taking the time to teach our children that these are natural human reactions and feelings, teaching them how to navigate these feelings, and how to appropriately come back from them, then are we failing or are we actually succeeding. If we are teaching our children, keeping them safe, not abusing them (physically, emotionally, and spiritually) but really teaching them that getting upset and yelling is natural. We teach them how to deal with their emotions or as we say in our house their volcanoes. How to keep their volcanoes from erupting, but when they do erupt, how to navigate that and come back from it.
So to change that mindset from earlier that I am a failure, I need to start with how did I teach my children through this? I could tell myself, "ok today I lost my cool, I yelled, I wasn't my best self, I reached my peak. BUT I taught my children how I come back from my volcano exploding. I made sure to comfort them and explain that I still love them and we are all safe. I took a few minutes to calm myself, and that teaches them to also take that calming breath." Our kids follow our lead, so let's change the narrative and change the lead. It's ok for your volcano to explode, it's what you do and how you come back from it that is the most important tool.