Kids Don’t Need Perfect Parents :: Perfecting the Parental “Do-Over”

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Ever have one of “those days”? 

Days when the kids CANNOT get along. 

Days when you consider joining your screaming toddler on the floor at Target, because you CAN’T EVEN today.

Days when you swear that you’re going to STOP THIS MINIVAN AND MAKE EVERYBODY WALK HOME.

…Or is it just me?

Don’t get me wrong here. I love my sweet children more than words can express, but the truth is that some days I think I’m going to lose my mind. {Cue the DMX song.} I question my sanity, my abilities as a mother, and whether or not my kids are  taking over the world, one Lego at a time.

It’s days like those that I have to reexamine my kids, myself, and the events of our lives to figure out what the what is going on. I use the HALT acronym to check myself: Am I – or the kids –  Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired? All of the above? … A “yes” to any of those questions means that things are gonna get ugly. Fast.

There are times when it’s “just a phase” (cough, cough Three-nager) or something that the kids are struggling with beyond anything related to me (hey, bullying, I’m looking at you). But it can also be something I’m struggling with that is totally separate from them. In either case, my frustration toward them is counterproductive in providing the support that they need.

Truth bomb: I feel downright awful when frustration gets the best of me, like the Worst Mom Failure in the History of Moms. And failures.

But I’ve figured out a solution so easy that it feels like cheating: A Do-Over. It goes a little something like this:

Step 1: Realize that you’re being a turd. Embrace that as part of life. Acknowledge that it isn’t fun and get ready to eat humble pie. You like pie, right??? 

Step 2: Look your kid in the eye and admit you feel like a turd without placing blame – you’re owning your feelings and actions like a boss, and you’re teaching your kid to do the same. Chances are good that your kid probably feels like a turd, too. Example: “Raising my voice didn’t feel good to me, and I bet it didn’t feel good to you, either. I’m sorry.” Yep, it is 100% OK to apologize to your child. In fact, it teaches them that it’s OK to apologize. What’s more, it helps them understand what a truly decent apology feels like.

Step 3: Suggest a Do-Over. Get down to eye level with your child and make eye contact. It’s as easy as asking, “Would you like to try a do-over?” or “Everyone makes mistakes. Can we try this again, now that we know the right way to handle this?” You’ll be surprised how quickly the “yes” comes through and the tension breaks. Insert hugs here.

Step 4: Do the darn thing. Now that you know better, be better. You’re a rock star mom, you know.

{Repeat after me, Mama: I’m the boss of my attitude. I’m the boss of my reactions. I’m the boss of my behavior. If I want a do-over, WE CAN TOTALLY HAVE A DO-OVER.}

I can’t tell you how much this can help reset the mood from contentious to comfortable again. It also gives kids the opportunity to consider their actions and readjust (who doesn’t need that?). After all, they’re still learning from their “mess ups” to become functional members of society. Maybe you are, too.

Children learn from us, whether we’re ready for it or not, and I firmly believe that the way we handle the not-so-perfect moments helps them shape the way they’ll be as friends, colleagues, and parents. They don’t need perfect parents – they need parents to show them how to deal with an imperfect life.

While I truly do wish that I did everything perfectly, perhaps the way that I provide grace in those many imperfect moments can help my kids understand how to extend that grace to me – and to themselves – when they need it most. 

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Jeanie is a perfectly imperfect mama, transplanted to Cordova fresh out of graduate school. She and her husband, Matt, had no intent on making Memphis “home” – but ten years later, they’re still here (and love it!). They have three saucy gingers, along with three “fur babies”. Between homeschooling and chairing graduate Psychology departments online, life is never boring in the Whinghter house. It’s no surprise that Jeanie fancies coffee, but she also loves bargain shopping and embarrassing her children with her questionable singing/dancing skills. She’s had more #PinterestFails that she can count and has perfected the art of giving a good pep talk (watch out, puberty!). Motherhood has slowly transformed her into the “uncool” Mom she thought she’d never be, yet she’s never felt cooler or more content with her life.