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Being Hard on Yourself Doesn’t Make You a Better Parent. Here’s What Does.

Being Hard on Yourself Doesn’t Make You a Better Parent. Here’s What Does.

Kids like to get their way. But there’s something every child wants even more.

Someone who loves you, no matter what. Someone who doesn’t yell when you make mistakes. Who is calm and patient, even when you’re mad or whining. Someone who controls their own emotions so they can listen and empathize, even when you’re wrong, even when you were so upset you were rude, even when you hit your sister. Someone who holds a vision of you as your best self, even when you can’t find that self.

Imagine growing up with that parent. That’s what every child wants.

Of course, nobody can be that parent 24/7, because we’re only human. No one is perfect, and parents have lots of reasons to lose it on a regular basis.

What we CAN do is make the commitment to increase our ratio of good to bad parenting moments, and keep working at it, day after day. When we mess up — which we all do — we can pick ourselves up and try again. Luckily, each step in the right direction makes a big difference.

But if you’re wishing you could be that parent more often, or if you’re feeling stuck in a negative cycle, maybe it’s time to give yourself more support. Most of us feel guilty when we lose it. We ricochet between losing our temper and being permissive. We keep resolving to “do better.” But being hard on yourself doesn’t make you a better parent. Even resolving to be more patient doesn’t help if that’s all you do. What we all need is more support, the kind of support that helps us stay calm and regulate our own emotions.

If you have a plant that’s wilting, you don’t yell at it to straighten up and grow right. You figure out what it needs to thrive: More water? More sunshine? More room to grow? This applies to your child, of course. But it also applies to you. We all need support to be our best selves.

So instead of berating yourself, take a moment right now, and consider what one thing you could do today to support yourself to be the parent you want to be.

1. Maybe you need more sleep.

2. Maybe you need to take a vow of Yellibacy and let your kids give you a star for each day you don’t yell.

3. Maybe you need to slow down a bit and do less, so you aren’t so stressed, and you can enjoy your child more.

4. Maybe you need to read a parenting book or take a course to inspire you, teach you skills, and keep you on track.

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5. Maybe you need to join a group or course forum where you can talk with other parents and get support.

6. Maybe you need to shower yourself with more love and compassion. You can only be emotionally generous to your child if you’re emotionally generous to yourself.

Any of these ideas (or any other change you need) will take work on your part. But life is short, and you deserve it. And your child deserves it. The days with your child may feel long, but childhood is short. Every day, your child is creating memories. He’s shaping his brain. She’s laying the foundation for the relationships she’ll choose for the rest of her life.

You don’t have to change all at once. The most lasting changes come one step at a time, from creating new habits. For today, why not make a clear intention to give yourself the support you need? Write down the first step you’ll take to give yourself more support.

Then just do it. Take that first step, today. I’ll be right here cheering you on.

“What I have learned from reading Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids has already improved my relationship with my eight year old son. My son thanked me this morning for reading this book. He said I am turning into the mom he always wanted. ‘Even if it means you don’t always get your way?’ I asked. He replied, ‘It’s easy to learn from my mistakes when you aren’t yelling at me about them.’ I almost burst into tears.”

Dr. Laura Markham is the author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life and Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting and more, – you can visit her at
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