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10 Things To Remember When You Feel Like a Failure as a Parent

An author and a Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault
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Eric dropped out of college and pocketed the tuition money his parents gave him for school, Dave is only 16 and was arrested for drunk driving, and Jamie, a fifteen-year-old, swallowed an entire bottle of sleeping pills in an attempted suicide. All of these scenarios would make any parent feel like a failure. We need to remember that we are not failures. Failures will happen in our parenting journey, but we need to be careful to not label ourselves as failures.

Below are ten things to remember that will encourage you when you begin to feel like a failure as a parent.

1. Find Hope in the Situation

The worst feeling is hopelessness. When there is no hope, you will feel like quitting or not trying anymore. As parents, we need to keep trying because our kids need us. When we have a situation that is making us feel like a failure, we need to look for hope in the situation to turn around our perspective. This will help us to reframe the situation and give us hope to continue doing what we need to do.

For example, Sally is a good kid, but when she comes home from school, she is always in a bad mood and is short with her parents. She will march into her bedroom, slam her door, and say that she just wants to be alone. She is a straight-A student and does her homework immediately after school.

The Behavior Is Often a Part of Normal Development

Her mood is one that many teens have after a long day at school. They are burned out, tired, and need to be alone for a little while to decompress for the day. Rather than taking it personally and her mom taking it to heart and feeling like her relationship with her daughter is a failure, she has changed her perspective.

She now recognizes that this is part of her daughter’s need to decompress after the long school day. So, instead of trying to start a conversation when her daughter comes home, she allows her daughter to go directly to her room and do her homework. She hopes that someday she will outgrow this phase, and she also knows that her daughter is responsible when it comes to doing her homework as soon as she gets home. This is part of the reason why she is such a good student. She has hope for good conversations each day after her daughter has taken the time to decompress alone and do her homework in her room.


Get Help From Others

Finding hope in the situation can help you move forward and not personalize things as a failure. If you have a hard time finding hope or the positive aspects of your situation, then ask a friend to help you find hope and discuss the matter with them. Another helpful option is finding a counselor to talk about your specific situation.

2. We Can’t Do It All

We often feel like a failure as a parent because we can’t do it all. We don’t have time to make the homemade birthday treats for our child’s class, or we can’t make it to their basketball games because we have a job during those hours. We need to stop trying to do it all. We are human beings and we have limits, including the number of hours in a day.

Give Ourselves Grace

We can’t do it all, so we need to release the pressure we put on ourselves to be a super mom or a super dad. Allow yourself grace when you can’t get it all done. Did you have to leave for work today with dishes overflowing the sink and piles of laundry waiting to be washed? It’s ok. It will be there later and can be done later. Give yourself some grace and flexibility. We can’t be perfect, nor can we be superhumans. Just be you and tell yourself it will be okay if it doesn’t get done right now. You simply cannot do it all.

3. Disappointments Are Part of Life

When we can’t be there for our kids for all their activities, we can feel like we are failing them. Those games that we miss because of work or vacations that they didn’t get to go to because money was tight are things that normally happen.

If you’re starting to feel like a failure as a parent whenever you miss out on your children’s stuff, remember that disappointments are part of life. Helping your child talk about it and process their feelings is a good way to teach them to cope with life’s disappointments.

4. Know That You Are Enough

Know that you are enough. At the end of the day, your child just wants you. They want you as their parent, not anybody else. There is a bond between parent and child that is special.


Know that expensive vacations or the newest video games are not the most important thing. What is far more important is that you continue being their parent and loving them. Even when you can’t be together, a simple text wishing them good luck at their game will lift their spirits because it came from their parent. You are enough because you are their parent and in their life.

5. Keep Track of the Good Memories

Nobody has a perfect childhood. It simply doesn’t exist. But we can all have great memories during our childhood.

Take the time to record the good memories. These will help you get through the tough times as a parent. Keep photo albums or record in a journal your special memories as a parent. Write about the wonderful times you had on vacation with your child, journal about how proud you are of their efforts in school and what they have accomplished, or keep a bulletin board of happy photos and memories on display in your home.

Keep track of all the good memories as much as you can. They will be grown and out of your home sooner than you think. Emphasize the good memories by keeping track of these things with photos, journals, albums, a blog, or whatever works best for you. Keeping memories will help both you and your child focus on the good parts of their childhood and the positive aspects of your relationship.

6. You Are Not Alone

Parenting is the toughest job in the world. You are not alone. There are billions of other parents on this planet. We all struggle. We all feel like a failure from time to time. There is no one way to best parent a child because every child is unique. All we can do is try our best to parent our children the best way for them and their life issues.

When you feel alone in your journey, reach out to fellow parents. There are many Facebook groups where you can find parents dealing with similar tough issues. Have a child with an eating disorder? You can find groups on social media where you can communicate with fellow parents in the same situation. This will help you better understand your child, their condition, and more importantly, help you find support through other parents on the same journey.

7. Help Is Available

To find support groups in your area, you can go to Mental Health Americas.[1] If you are struggling with parenting issues or feeling like a failure as a parent, then you should find a support group or counselor. Use the Mental Health America Website or find a local counselor using the search tools on the Psychology Today Website.[2]


8. Sometimes You Just Need to Walk Away

Arguing with our kids can definitely make us feel like we are failing. Yelling, screaming, and raising voices are never the best solutions. Sometimes, we just need to walk away.

This doesn’t mean walking away forever! Not at all. What it means is that sometimes, we need to cool down, or sometimes it’s our child or teen that needs time to cool off. It’s okay to say, “we need to stop arguing and cool off, we can talk about this in an hour,” or whenever you think would be best. Allow time and space for emotions on both sides to cool off.

9. Apologies and Forgiveness Go a Long Way

We are going to make mistakes, and so is your child. We need to be ready to forgive and apologize. It is hard for some parents to apologize to their children, but apologizing helps create better relationships. It shows your child that they matter enough for you to apologize to them for your wrongdoing. When apologies don’t happen, it leaves children hurt and wounded. Some of those scars can carry into adulthood.

Be willing to own up to your mistakes, and ask for forgiveness. It will help your relationship with your child grow stronger in the long run. Trust will be strengthened in the relationship. They will also learn that apologies and forgiveness are important parts of a healthy relationship through your example and behavior.

10. We Also Need to Take Care of Ourselves

Parenting is hard work, and it can take a toll on us emotionally, mentally, and physically. We must be sure to take care of ourselves so that we can be ready for the tough job of being a parent.

Make sure you get enough sleep, eat healthy meals, exercise, and have an outlet for your emotions. Take care of yourself for the sake of you, your child, and your other loved ones. You can only be your best self when you take good care of yourself.


It Is a Long Journey

Whenever you feel like a failure as a parent, remind yourself that parenthood is a marathon, not a sprint. There will be hills, valleys, and many bumps in the road along the way. We are in for a long ride, so we best acknowledge that the failures will come along the way. That way we are mentally prepared to handle bumps and valleys as they come along in our parenting journey.

Get professional help and support when you or your child need it. Know that you are not alone in this journey. We are all on this journey, one struggle and failure at a time. So, let’s support one another when we need it most.

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Featured photo credit: Alexander Dummer via unsplash.com


[1]Mental Health America: Find Support Groups
[2]Psychology Today: Find a Therapist
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