What To Do When You Are A Bad Parent

Welcome to another episode of Full Frontal Fatherhood, the place for fantastic fathers and the moms that support them. Today I want to talk to you about what to do when you are a bad parent. 

We are all bad parents. It’s insanely hard what we’re doing. They get under our skin. We end up losing our temper. We yell. We impose ridiculous boundaries. We emotionally hurt them in little ways all the time. The question, the important part is, what do you do to repair that situation? How do you respond? 

When we do something bad we feel guilt. Guilt is a healthy emotion that says, “I’ve done something bad, I shouldn’t have done that.” Unfortunately that leads to shame. Shame is the feeling that we are a bad person for what we’ve done. None of us like feeling shame, and when we feel it we do all kinds of things to get out of that experience. The worst of them is that we continue to make our kids wrong. We get more oppressive, more verbally violent, we do worse and worse things. Or we disappear and we go distract ourselves and we forget completely about the experience.

Fortunately, there are better ways in which we can manage that horrible feeling.

 1. The first step in responding well when you are a bad parent is to go and be with your feelings. If it’s possible to hand your child over to your partner or just tell your kid, “I’m sorry, I have to go in the other room for a couple of minutes,” and go and stare out of the window, look at a tree and breathe. If you can feel the intensity of the feelings in your body and let yourself settle, then the hormones and neurotransmitters can come back to a more normal level. Once they’re at a more normal level you can think. Once you can think you can assess how to handle the situation.

2. Get somebody you can share with in those hard moments. You need to vent out the anger and frustration and if you don’t you might take it out on the kids. If you can call up a person, or perhaps it can be your partner and let it all out, “I hate that kid. I hate myself. I can’t believe I did that. I can’t believe they did that.” Get the venom out.

3. Write it down, dump it on the paper, get it out of you so that you can come back to being yourself and being a good parent.

4. Once you have your head on straight go and interact with the kid, go and see where they’re at. Don’t immediately come back with a big apology or expressing your love. They’re probably upset still and you just saying, “Oh I’m terribly sorry I messed up,” or “Oh I love you so much,” will feel weird to them. Sit down. Say, “Oh that sucked huh?” Or, “We really messed up there,” or, “I was really mean, huh?” See where they’re at and how to join their experience so you can reconnect.

We are giving them a chance to get their feelings out. It is extremely healing for them to express their feelings verbally and emotionally, but we can’t force this. We can just give them opportunities and be as receptive as possible. This includes receiving their anger. Just let them get it out and try to let go of the need to be right or tell them how they were wrong. After you have connected and they have released their feelings then in a calm moment you can talk about the incident and maybe how each of you could have handled that better.

 So in brief:

  1. Watch your guilt and shame when you do something bad and how you respond to that. 
  2. Take some time, talk to a friend or write it down in order to deal with those feelings.
  3. Reconnect with your kid from a more neutral place. And help them release their feelings.

Thanks for joining me for another episode of Full Frontal Fatherhood. If you’re not already there head over to FullFrontalFatherhood.com for a lot of other videos. Please join us in the conversation below. I’d love to hear your ideas about what to do when you’re a bad parent. Let’s keep it friendly and nice because this is really hard stuff. If you liked the video please share it with your friends. I’ll see you next Friday for another episode of Full Frontal Fatherhood.

Take care,