How to Approach “Failure” as a Parent
What does it mean to fail as a parent?
Guest post by Sylvia Puentos
To me, the word failure is highly charged and disturbingly absolute. To fail means that you are wrong; that you are inadequate, incompetent or ‘not enough’. A 2014 study found that 70% of parents feel judged regularly by others around them, including by strangers. As yet, there are no statistics on how many of us judge ourselves, nor how often we turn our criticism inward because of some perceived lack of parenting ability.
We, as a society, have created a false ideal around raising children; we have come to believe that there are set guidelines to being an effective parent. That there is a ‘right’ way. According to this learned limitation, if we can simply recognize where we are failing in our role as a parent (or if we are told by others) then we can find ways to fix it.
But what if it doesn’t have to be this way? What if we were willing to confront the idea that failure doesn’t actually exist?
Failure is a fabrication of society and it is built around an ever-changing set of ideals. (That which was regarded as good parenting a century ago may be maligned today, and vice versa.) When we buy into failure it sticks with us and it creates a vortex of wrongness. Just like digging a hole, it is easy to fall so deep into a spiral of judgement and perceived failure that it is almost impossible to climb back out.
One of the most important things we can understand as parents is that our offspring learn how to ‘be’ in this world, through observation and example. When children observe their parents struggling with the rightness and wrongness of their role – when they watch mothers and/or fathers succumb to judgement from self and others – they, too, learn to approach life in this way.
It is in this way – by mimicking the behaviors of their parents – that children learn to judge themselves as ‘wrong’ or ‘a failure’ when they make a not-so-good choice or decision.
But what if we could learn to function as parents (and role models) from a place of allowance and kindness toward ourselves? What if, instead of measuring our choices and behaviours against a social ideal, we came to view parenting as an exploration. In this way, poor choices are not failings on our behalf – they are opportunities to learn more about what we would like our life (or our relationship with our children) to look like, and what we would like to change.
Parenting as an exploration
When we accept that parenting is an exploration, we remove any concept of success or failure. An explorer has not failed if their trekking brings them to an impassable river. It is simply a sign that the current direction is not working; they will need to adjust to venture further. So it is with parenting.
From this space, one of consideration and allowance, we become more open to the actual needs of our children. Specifically, without the fear of perceived failure, it is easier to choose:
Are you willing to be a bad parent? Are you willing to choose what you feel is best for you and your family, despite what social expectations may dictate?
Are you willing to be vulnerable in front of your children? Are you willing to see your child’s contribution to the family as equal to your own? Are you willing to empower them by asking questions?
Are you willing to listen to your children? Parents often talk too much and many press their own perspective – what is right, wrong or acceptable – onto the child without any acknowledgment of the child’s awareness.
Are you willing to give your child whatever space they require, even if they choose silence? Often all that is required for a child to find solutions to their challenges is the space to explore their own perspective and capabilities. What if as a parent, you made sure to say “You’re an amazing being and you are gift to the world?”
When we, as parents, are willing to step into a kinder and more accepting view of ourselves, we offer an incredible gift to our children: the ability to live, learn, explore, strive and fall without ever judging themselves as wrong, inadequate or a failure.
Five questions you can ask when you feel like you have failed:
- According to who am I failing?
- Where did I buy the notion that I have to be perfect?
- What if I have been doing the best I can, with the tools I have?
- What’s right about me I’m not getting?
- What is it that I know that is best for my child/family that I haven’t acknowledged?
About Sylvia Puentes: As an Author, Certified Facilitator of Access Consciousness®, Right Voice For You® Facilitator, Educator Empowerment Coach, International Speaker and Trainer, Sylvia Puentes contributes to people of all ages by sharing tools and techniques that can transform any area of life. Her work also includes courses in Public Speaking, Leadership and Employee engagement. Her kind presences creates a space of ease in working with individuals and groups to clear limitations and open the door to endless possibilities.