Parenting Fails that Win: The Feel Good Corner
As the Publisher of SuburbanMisfitMom, I consider myself uniquely qualified to speak on behalf of the countless parenting failures that writers share with me in our down and dirty conversations. My other undeniable skillset in this regard is that I’m oftentimes a certifiable idiot when it comes to parenting. Lucky for me, I’ve always held a “learn as you go” belief system. In all fairness, I tell my kids I’m an idiot all the time. It’s like I came with a disclaimer as their parent. The second they understood English, I leveled with them: I’m FAR from perfect, Kiddos.
And because I have no problem pointing out when I’ve failed as a Mom (“OK, so watching The Exorcist was NOT my best idea”), I’ve even gone so far as to ask for 360 feedback from the kids on my parenting performance, so I’m definitely open to discussing my parenting failures. Wide open. And what I’ve noticed is that some of my kids’ best lessons come from my personal failures.
Which Parenting Failures proved to be a win, at the end of the day? My personal favorites:
1 – Purposeful Abandonment
We’ve all heard this expression thrown around, but Purposeful Abandonment (aka Gentle Neglect) is healthy for both parent and child. While ignoring your kid, they can learn how to be independent (So what you’re in the bathroom for an extra long break? Get the cereal for yourselves, kids. It’s called a stool. It’s been in the corner of the kitchen since before you were born. Yes, you can step on it and yes it reaches the cereal.) The kids may even learn to speak up for themselves, and come up with creative solutions to getting things they want (as in from people, people other than you). Beware, as this technique, if overemployed, can result in a most precocious and manipulative child who negotiates like a white collar criminal lawyer.
2 – Overscheduling Mishaps
Can’t keep the days, dates and yes, even the year straight? Join my club. My children can’t afford to be distracted with me in charge! Since children typically have trouble transitioning from activity to activity, a parent’s inability to keep multiple schedules straight can test the mettle of any kid. And when your kid’s frustration tolerance increases? TaDa…Parenting fail results in a child that understands the world can’t always operate like clockwork around them.
3 – Underscheduling Your Kids
You may be one of those parents that believes in free-ranging it, and if so, god bless. You may also have entertained the notion of homeschooling until you came to your good senses. If so, you probably don’t mind having your little critters around all the time. You love them, and are entertained by such delicious activities as making snow angels. And yet, underscheduling a child can be a huge parenting fail. Kids move at a faster pace then our generation did; they crave stimulation and sports and activities. Somehow, a healthy diet of Good Times, Jeffersons and Gilligan’s Island wouldn’t satisfy my children the way it did me in the 80’s. If you’ve somehow, someway, underscheduled your kid, you have our deepest sympathies. There’s always Bailey’s Irish Cream and Coffee this Winter. But don’t fret. Use this parenting fail to your advantage. Schedule a consistent and purely social playdate for them, take outings in nature with your child, or pick up a hobby you can do together. You’ll probably grow closer to your munchkin as a result. And the next time the local Y offers those bullshit kiddie tumbling classes? Yeah, don’t even think twice. For the price of several lattes, you can get yourself some peace.
4 – Avoiding Getting Involved in Your Kids’ Arguments
There are times your kids are embroiled in battle. You enter the picture – unarmed with the words to magically mediate the cacophony before you. Kids need a strong but gentle but loving but firm (are you starting to spot an absurd pattern?) parent. If and when their arguments get out of control, a parent should not pretend they are not seeing the argument, and should not close the closet door behind her in hopes that the other parent will be breaking this one up, or navigating the ship, or whatever one does. But if a parent is indeed avoidant of such conflict, no worries. This parenting fail could absolutely work to a kids’ advantage. Children can often solve their own problems if we adults learn to step aside, be patient, and give them the space to find their words. Of course, there was The Lord of the Flies. But those kids didn’t have ipads now, did they?
5 – Bribery
“Babysit your brother for twenty minutes and I’ll get you that ice cream,” is a phrase uttered across the world by desperate parents. Perhaps you’ve even overpaid your child for “babysitting.” Not this parent’s proudest moment, and yet, isn’t everyone entitled to earn a few bucks or an ice cream cone? Yes, if used properly, the lowdown technique of bribery can produce tremendously quick results and activate even the most unhelpful of children.
So the next time you’ve royally messed up as a parent, try admitting to your children that you suck. That will cut down on defensiveness and arguing. After you all agree that you did something sucky, make an inappropriate joke just to keep it light. Then go ahead and pay your kid to babysit their younger brother because you were on the phone ignoring their fighting and didn’t hear them remind you that Orchestra is each Wednesday, not Thursday like you always think it is.
And as the kids lambaste you, rest assured: You are definitely building their character.