Parent, raise your hand if you ever feel like you’re ruining your kid. Mmhm, I thought so.
In case you haven’t noticed, most parents and their parents and their parents feel or have felt exactly the same way at one point or another. It’s just a part of parenting.
Even my own mom, a fiercely independent and confidently outspoken mother of all mothers, has asked the essential parenting question – did she in fact “screw up” her youngest offspring?
A few years ago, my attachment style was evaluated as a part of the Trauma-Based Relational Intervention practitioner training. (It’s called the Adult Attachment Interview and was created by Carol George, Nancy Kaplan, and Mary Main in 1984 if you’re interested in learning about yours as well. It’s a hoot.)
Among all the fascinating tidbits I found out about myself, I also learned that Mama Reichert still wondered about her healthy functioning, semi-successful, wildly hilarious, adult daughter.
When I told my parents about the interview, my dad, Mr. Unconcerned, shrugged his shoulders. “Hm,” he quipped. And that was about it.
But Mom's response? “Oh. Are you gonna find out how messed up you are because of your silly parents? It IS always the mother’s fault, right?”
At that, both Dad and I shook our heads yes.
Without question, our childhood shapes us. And according to research, moms play the biggest part in our upbringing.
Luckily for me, both my childhood and my parents were pretty great. As a social worker, there’s no way I’d lie and say there weren’t things that should’ve gone better, but overall, I was happy and safe. I felt loved.
Pressure’s off, Mom. The big picture is actually what matters the most.
Often times, when parents tell me they feel like they keep muckin’ up the whole parenting gig, I remind them that while the day-to-day is important, what makes a lasting impression is the relationship.
Ask yourself: What do I want my relationship with my kid to look like 20 years from now?
Chew on that a bit.
Hopefully, you’ll want a relationship with your adult child that’s approachable, transparent, and deep. The way to achieve that doesn’t depend on every, microscopic detail you categorize as foible or forte, but the big picture.
So, on a very regular basis…
Share emotion with your child and validate her feelings. Act silly together doing the things she enjoys.
Forgive mistakes (yours and hers). Compromise. Repair connections when there’s conflict.
Make appropriate, bendable boundaries. Praise her character traits rather than her abilities only. Give consistent messages.
Correct her negative behavior the way you’d like to be corrected, and then empower her to make adjustments with your help.
If you do, you can rest assured (with Mama Reichert) you’ll do right by your kid.