3 steps to take when you get it wrong as a parent

Parents are human. We are not perfect and sometimes we get it wrong. The added stressors of single parenting will increase the chance of getting it wrong. But all is not lost! There are 3 steps we can take to limit the fallout and be better role models to our kids.


As parents we will inevitably get it wrong occasionally. We speak hurtfully to our kids both accidentally and purposefully. We act the opposite of what we teach, we lack patience, we don’t listen, we make decisions to suit our own interests and not for the benefit of our kids. We fail! If I was to list every time I have got it wrong as a parent you’d be reading an encyclopedia not a blog. For me, being a single parent increased the potential to get it wrong because tiredness, lack of support and overload infringed my abilities. That’s why as single parents we need to find a balance between caring for others and caring for ourselves.

Prevention strategies

We need to practice self-care so we don’t overload and burn out. I found when I was tired the smallest annoyance would create an explosion of anger. Fatigue generated an over-reaction and my kids bore the brunt of it.

It’s important that we have the support of others who we can bounce parenting strategies off. They may not live in the house but they can be our coach on the side-lines giving valuable input and a listening ear. We simply cannot parent alone.

However, even with the best prevention methods there are times when you will just not parent well. What do you do when you get it wrong?

3 steps to take when you get wrong as parent

  1. Apologise
  2. Repair any damage or limit the fallout
  3. Forgive ourselves

Step 1 Apologise

Making an apology is a humbling experience. When you apologise you acknowledge that your actions or words have hurt the other person. You confess that what you did or what you said was wrong. For some of us who try to be perfect (me!) this is a confronting experience. To admit to another person that I am not perfect challenges my self-worth.

Saying the word ‘sorry’ can be very difficult. You might need to write your apology out first, choosing what you will say and even rehearsing it. I often had to practice my apology so I didn’t revert back to blaming the other person mid speech. E.g. I might start with ‘I am sorry I went ballistic about the toys being left on the floor,’ and end up with, ‘but how many times have I asked you not to leave them there, and now I’ve stepped on one and broken it. That’s going to cost so much money that we don’t have and it’s all your fault…blah blah blah.’ A clue you have switched from apology to blaming is when you use the word ‘you’.

Apologising when you get it wrong shows your kids how to be humble.  They will learn the need for apologising when they hurt or offend someone. You are being a good role model.

Step 2 Repair damage or limit the fallout

To understand what you will need to do to repair the damage or limit the fallout you will need to listen – really listen to how your kids describe their hurt. This requires focused attention, not thinking about your ‘to do’ list or what to cook for tea. It will be uncomfortable as you are aware that you are the cause of their pain.  Listening helps you to find ways to help them with their hurt. This takes time and energy.

I snapped hope destroying words at my kids many years ago and even now we still talk about this hurt and how to remedy it. As the kids have grown we have explored the impact of the words as their understanding of life developed. It’s a long term reminder of a time I got it really wrong. Hence the need to forgive yourself.

Step 3 Forgive ourselves

Forgiving yourself frees you from the constant regurgitation of getting it wrong. It allows you to leave the past behind and let go of the guilt and shame of what you did.

To forgive yourself simply say, ‘I forgive myself for….’. By the way, it’s normal for your feelings not to match your declaration, so ignore them.

Putting legs on it

Is there something you need to apologise for?

Do you need to listen to how you have hurt your kids and find a remedy for it?

Do you need to forgive yourself for not being the perfect parent?


Psychology today: When parents say ‘I’m sorry’, they are saying so much more

Positive Parenting Solutions: 7 steps for apologizing to your child

Parenting: 5 reasons why you should apologize to your kids


Photo credit: Roksolana Zasiadko www.stocksnap.io

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