As much as we joke about the perils of parenting here on Mommyish, we also spend a great deal of time dissecting good and bad parenting strategies and what it actually takes to be a good parent. As I've heard quite a few readers express, those that are actually worried about whether or not they will be a good parent are the ones who will probably be a good parent—because they care.
I can confidently say that I, along with the good readers of Mommyish, care a lot about being a good parent. Otherwise, why would I spend the majority of my day writing and commenting on parenting blogs (besides sheer entertainment)?
The thing is, no matter how hard you try to be a good parent, the odds are that your kids are probably going to turn around and have beef with you somewhere on down the line. Whether it was because you wouldn't let them have a later curfew on the weekend or because you didn't handle your divorce as well as you could have, your kids may want to have a serious conversation with you as adults.
Please listen to them. My mom admittedly made a lot of parenting mistakes throughout my childhood, and we are just now repairing our relationship. I have great respect for her because she is constantly willing to listen to anything that I have to say about how I was hurt or mistreated as a child—and she takes it seriously.
What she does not say is this: I did my best.
At face value, this may seem like a totally appropriate thing to tell your kids when they tell you what you did wrong, but it absolutely is not, and I will tell you why. My mom has also shared with me how she has had friendly confrontations with my grandmother about her own childhood issues. Unfortunately, my grandma wasn't as willing to be open as my mom has been, and she glossed over many things by saying, "I did my best."
When I hear this parenting excuse, that's all it is to me—an excuse. Instead of validating a child's feelings, even if you don't agree with them, a parent is essentially patting their kid on the head and saying, "There, there, I'm sorry you're upset, but I did my best."
To me, this excuse sounds defensive at best. Even if a parent doesn't agree with their child's perception of a situation, it is always in a child's best interest to acknowledge and validate how they are feeling. So, if you feel like your child is totally off base in accusing you of being a bad parent at one time or another, it's time to swallow your pride and be a parent yet again.
Just because you hear your child out and validate their feelings and even apologize when needed doesn't take away from the effort you put forth as a parent. Sure, it can feel discouraging and even devastating to have someone pick apart your hard work. But this is the time to remember that you are dealing with a child, and you are still the parent, no matter how old they may be.
Like I said, my mom has made mistakes, and some of them damaged our relationship in the past. But in the present day, she is doing something right. She is more than willing to be open about any issues that I may have had with her, and she listens to me, and she apologizes. Even better, she isn't threatened by my accusations in the least. She doesn't push aside my feelings by saying that she did her best. She admits fault, even if it makes her look bad, and that in turn has taught me how to deal with my mistakes as an adult.
It may be tempting to tell your child that you did your best because you probably did. But when your child comes to you with an issue, no matter how small or how big, that is the time to honor their feelings—not defend yourself.
I'm currently estranged from my dad because of many, many unresolved childhood issues. I was recently googling estranged parents and children, and I came across a support forum for adult children who are estranged from their parents.
I will tell you one thing that I noticed that stuck out like a sore thumb. Whenever these adult children were relating stories about how their relationships with their parents were severed, the parents were never willing to admit fault.
In some stories, the parents were outright hostile and violent. But in many stories, the parents were simply defensive and deluded. Even if a child felt deeply hurt and was reaching out to a parent for help or comfort, some parents wouldn't budge. They were convinced that they did their best, no matter what it cost them.
(photo: Getty Images)