I asked my 15 year old son what the biggest parenting mistake I’ve made is and this is what he said…..
Parenting is hard, I mean really hard, sometimes it’s great but often it’s hard. Most of us have no clue what we’re doing, no-one gave us a manual, we’re handed this precious bundle and pretty much left to get on with it, using our intuition and our own experiences of being parented as guidance.
Yes, we can read parenting books, we can set up reward systems, we can look to ‘experts’ to help us and of course this can all help, but it can add pressure too. When we place overly high expectations on ourselves we often fall short, we compare ourselves to all of those we think are doing a much better job and we berate ourselves endlessly at every perceived failure.
As a Mindfulness & Resilience Coach I work with both adults and children and I often hear myself promoting a ‘growth mindset’, preaching about not fearing failure and learning from our mistakes, but the truth is, none of us really want to feel like we’ve failed as a parent, do we.
Another thing we don’t get is feedback. As a stay at home parent, I don’t get a yearly review and a pat on the back for all the things I’ve got right (I’m lucky to get a Mother’s Day card quite frankly) and I don’t get constructive feedback on the things I could have done better (I’m not sure accusations of child cruelty from enforced restrictions on gaming and sugar consumption count).
This is when I decided to bite the bullet and actually ask for some. Not from another adult or an expert, but from one of the very people at the coal face of my parenting, namely my teenage son. So, I asked him what he thought the biggest mistake I’ve made as a parent has been and I waited for a diatribe cataloguing all the mistakes I’ve made and arguments we’ve had over the years to be thrown back at me. But his response really shocked me, because he told me that on the whole he thought I did a really good job and that the only thing he would criticise me for is not restricting his brother’s laptop use more (I will confess, he has got a valid point with this).
Now this may make me sound like an awesome parent, I can guarantee this is not the case, I’m as flawed as the next Mum out there and I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way, but the truth is that from my son’s perspective he’s not as bothered about this as I am. We may have our ups and downs but on the whole, he thinks I’m doing OK and that’s good enough for me.
So, I guess what my son has taught me is that I need to have more of a ‘growth mindset’ myself around parenting, that I need to remember mistakes are OK and that’s how we learn to ‘parent’ better, not from a book.