Every mom, no matter how awesome and self-confident she is, has those moments of: uh-oh, I have totally screwed up. As with any full-time job though, parenting has its share of misses and mess-ups. These are some of those dubious parenting times, and the reassuring lessons I’ve learned over the years as both a parent and a parent magazine editor.
Uh-oh #1: Your kid hurts himself
Blood! There is actual blood on your tot’s forehead! Because he has fallen and hit his head on the edge of the gigantic ceramic planter your mother-in-law gave you that you hated anyway. It’s not a planter, it’s a lethal weapon. As you apply pressure to the cut with a damp paper towel and soothe your child, you curse yourself for not relocating it sooner.
Reality check! Kids are made of strong stuff. You’ve done your best to safeguard your house, down to the toilet locks. So don’t sweat it, mama. And move that dang ceramic planter to the garage, pronto. Now you have a totally valid excuse.
Uh-oh #2: Your kid talks back to you
You: “Honey, I’m not buying that toy/candy bar/DVD/game/whatever.”
Your usually obedient child: “Please, please, pleeeeeeeease?”
You: “We are not buying it.”
Your usually obedient child: “Well, I want to buy it and I say so!”
At this point, you’re irritated that your child isn’t listening to you — and concerned about why he thinks it’s OK to speak with you that way.
Reality check! Like a virus, kids will occasionally pick up the disobedience bug from seeing another kid behave the same way. Or they’re just testing the discipline waters to see how far they can wade before they get in trouble. In other words, occasional bouts of back-talk are not about you — it’s about him. And as long as you nip it in the bud and make it clear you won’t tolerate the disrespect, everyone should live happily and obediently ever after. Er, mostly … all bets are off on the teen years.
Uh-oh #3: Your toddler whomps another kid
Oh, happy day: the sun is shining, your tot is zooming around the playground with his fellow tots and you’re catching up with the other moms. And then, out of the corner of your eye, you see your little darling give another kid a huge shove so he can get her hands on the wagon and … WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! One tot down. What’s going on here? Haven’t you taught him to play nice? Have you not realized it until now that you may have spawned a devil child? Where did you go wrong?
Reality check! Young kids may display aggressive behavior to protect their turf, notes renowned parenting expert William Sears, MD. The urge can be compounded in toddlers who don’t yet have enough words to express themselves verbally instead of physically. And while there’s not much you could have done to prevent this, you can help stop the behavior going forward by showing an alternative way to get playthings: “We don’t hit other people. If you want the wagon, wait until your friend is finished with it … When I want something from you I don’t hit you, I ask nicely.”
Uh-oh #4: You forgot to send in an important school form
It’s the day of your kid’s class trip. She’s soooo excited. Wait, what’s that email from the teacher? OMG, she can’t go because you did not send in the signed consent form? You make a mad dash to the school and hand it in. What is wrong with you?!
Reality check! Nothing is wrong with you. You’re a parent of the human variety who’s juggling eleventy billion to-dos. What’s really amazing is that you don’t forget more.
Uh-oh #5: You gave in to something you shouldn’t
Your child really wanted a cookie before dinner. For reasons you still can’t understand, you let her have the cookie. And now you’re regretting it. Weak. You feel so weak.
Reality check! Occasionally giving in to a child’s pleas does not make you a Cookie Momster. Of course, do it constantly and you’ll spoil your kid and make her think you have no backbone. But once in a blue moon? No worries.
Uh-oh #6: You yell at your kid
You have repeatedly asked your child not to throw that ball around the living room. Suddenly: CRASH. The lamp is broken. “I TOLD you NOT to do that!” you yell. “Go to your room!” You have officially lost it. And almost instantly, you regret it.
Reality check! Kids were put on this earth to test our patience. Mostly, we hold up admirably. Every so often, we fail. When incidents like this have happened at our house, I usually dole out an appropriate punishment, discuss how to avoid letting the situation happening again, and then I apologize for yelling (if you apologize first, it derails the conversation). Final step, if possible: I have a nice, calming glass of wine.
Uh-oh #7: You yell at your partner in front of your kids
You didn’t mean to shout at your husband in front of the kids but once again the garbage wasn’t taken out so frustration took over and you lost it. As the kids stare at you, wide-eyed, you think, this will scar them for life.
Reality check! Experts say that an occasional tiff with a partner in front of the kids can be beneficial, because you can model how to work out problems in relationship. Kids can learn compromise and compassion, and that fighting with a loved one isn’t the end of the world. Sure, ideally you do it without yelling, but the rare adult meltdown does not guarantee your kids will require years of therapy. It does mean, however, that you should work out the issue calmly, reassure the kids that fights happen sometimes, and make up like you mean it.
Uh-oh #8: Your kid doesn’t do well on a test
Sheepishly, your child hands over the test he got back from his teacher. You glance at it and it is a sea of red marks. Eeep. What happened here? Have you not done enough to help him with schoolwork?
Reality check! Bad tests happen, no matter how much educational guidance you give your child. And there’s almost always a good reason. When my kid recently did poorly on a test, I reached out to the teacher for feedback, went over the material with her again, and discussed what she might do differently next time; it turned out that last-minute studying was mainly to blame.
Uh-oh #9: You let your kid have too much screen time
It’s a snow day. Your first-grader is watching TV/playing with apps on his iPad as you dash around the house, de-cluttering and cleaning up. Before you know it, three hours have gone by. Three hours of your child’s precious young life spent on screen time. You’re freaked; his brain is going to waste away, and it will be all your fault.
Reality check! Three or so hours of screen time isn’t extreme. Guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that entertainment screen time be limited to two hours a day for kids ages 3 to 18; an hour more than that on a snow day will not decimate your child’s brain (and may well help you keep your sanity in the face of extreme cabin fever). Come to think of it, maybe there needs to be separate screen time guidelines for snow days.More On