Toronto Zoo

I’m a Bad Parent

If your at all trying to be a good parent, I can almost guarantee that at one point or another (probably even within the past twenty-four hours) you’ve felt like a bad parent. Maybe you lost your temper and yelled about something stupid (my personal favourite). Maybe your kid almost got hurt (like the time I learned my toddler could now reach the top of the counter and grab the paring knife). Maybe you didn’t know how to address a certain problem (if someone can tell me how to get my youngest two to stop fighting, I’ll be eternally grateful). Maybe it’s something else entirely.

My point is, any good parent ends up feeling like a bad parent sometimes. It goes with the territory. We’re not perfect, and there’s no where else in our lives where our imperfections are made so obvious, so we can end up feeling inadequate to the role.

Part of parenting, I think, is coming to grips with this fact. We’ll only be worse parents if we pretend that we’re perfect or if we don’t care enough to do anything about our imperfections. Being a good parent involves owning our failures, working through them, and trying to improve them as best we can. It also involves recognizing that there’s only so much we can do. We’ll never be perfect, no matter how much work we put in. We need to remember that kids parented consistently with love will probably be okay despite our flaws.

I remember when my mother was living with us for a while a few years back. She said to me one day, “Oh, I wish I’d never spanked you. I see how different your kids are with you. They know you’ll never hit them. I’m so sorry that I raised you that way.”

I was taken aback. While I’m not a supporter of corporal punishment in any way or at any time, I never felt that my parents had done me any wrong. Spanking was a normal part of parenting at the time. It was still going on in schools occasionally. They were doing what they thought was best, and I don’t feel any particular psychological scarring from it.

I told her so, and then I realized why this was probably true. It was because I always knew they loved me. Spanking me was maybe not great parenting, but it wasn’t the whole of their parenting. They also encouraged me, affirmed me, supported me, and loved me in everything I did. In the long run, that stuff far more than balanced out the spanking.

This is the thing we need to realize most when we’re feeling like bad parents – love does, in the classic biblical phrase, cover a multitude of sins. Love isn’t enough on its own, of course, but if we consistently strive to parent with love, to give our kids the assurance of our support and our encouragement and our commitment, it goes a long way to balancing out the moments when we’re not perfect.