When your child behaves inappropriately, it’s easy to go straight to the thought, “They’re behaving like this because I’ve failed them. I’m a bad parent.” But you haven’t.
This fear is especially common for (recovering) perfectionist parents, and can stop us from helping our kids improve their behavior and confidence.
The tendency to feel like we’re failing our kids and judge ourselves as bad parents comes from our own, entrenched feelings of unworthiness. And ironically, when we judge ourselves as bad, our kids pick up on that and can “feel” that we’re also not accepting them in that moment. That’s how the perfectionism/shame/unworthiness gets passed on to our kids.
I realized this recently when I noticed that something I did increased my son’s anxiety. I can no longer remember the details of the conversation, but something he said triggered an “aha” for me, and I realized–in that moment of my focusing on my own shortcomings—his interpretation was to see himself as having failed or disappointed me. Ugh! I started the pattern with him, and he was learning it from me. I needed to change it by *accepting myself as I am*, as a good enough parent.
Also, you aren’t nearly as capable of helping your kids improve their behaviour when you’re feeling as if you’re failing. That’s because when you’re feeling that fear, you’re in a fight/flight response yourself. It’s automatic and subconscious, and it limits your ability to attune to them and figure out what they need.
You’re less able to hold space for them to step up to doing better, because you’re “down” in a fear place ourselves, rather than calmly staying centered and knowing that *your inner trust* (in yourself, and in them) will assist them in getting regulated so they can do better.
When you recognize that sometimes your kids (like everyone) get dysregulated and behave inappropriately when they aren’t getting their needs met, it’s easier to stay regulated yourself. And when you’re regulated, *that enables you to attune to your kids* and determine what they need.
So, it’s vital to focus on ACCEPTING ourselves with compassion. This doesn’t mean that we can’t still try to improve our behaviour or skills for regulating, but when we slip—acceptance and compassion are the key.
When we accept ourselves in difficult moments, we’ll naturally extend that same compassion and understanding to our children. And they’ll be more likely to lean into us for support and follow our lead.