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The Forgivable Parent

Updated: Dec 31, 2022

Jennifer Keluskar, Ph.D.

Julie and her 6-year-old daughter, Sammie, are on a play date. Julie tells Sammie it is time to go home, and Sammie starts crying and screaming that she does not want to leave.

Julie feels her cheeks redden as the mother of Sammie’s friend starts cooing that they will have her over again soon. Typically, Julie would hype up the grilled cheeses they are going to make when they get home, but today she is embarrassed by her daughter’s unruly behavior. “Sammie, this is not how we act at our friend’s house. If you want to go on more playdates in the future, you need to calm down.”

The gentle reprimand only makes Sammie dig her heels in more. Julie recalls that she had packed Sammie’s favorite cookies in her purse and thinks to offer them to her as a way to help her soothe. However, she immediately shuts down the thought. After all, she does not want to look like a parent who resorts to bribing, and how would she look if she caved in with cookies so close to lunch time?

As Sammie’s wailing persists, Julie gets more exacerbated. She loses her cool and yells at Sammie. Julie is overwhelmed by shame, as she thinks about how Sammie’s friend’s mother will think of her as a “yeller.” She also worries that she has harmed Sammie’s self-esteem. “Please don’t get more upset” Julie pleads to Sammie, giving her some of the cookies out of guilt.

If you are like Julie, you might be scouring the internet, or asking several friends for advice on managing situations like the above.

Did you stumble upon this blog looking to solve similar dilemmas?

My practice as a child psychologist includes a lot of work with unhappy parents seeking advice, guidance, and clear answers. I applaud these individuals for taking a step towards further addressing their child’s needs.

At the same time, I feel like there is a critical issue my profession is failing to address: How parents view themselves as parents. What tools do they already possess? How are they taking care of their own needs? How has their world view shaped how they interact with their child?

Whether they say it aloud or not, “I’m a bad parent” is one of the saddest and most common sentiments I hear expressed by parents that seek my consultation.

But here’s the good news: If you are reading this, you are probably already a good parent, even if you think you need to be a better one....

Before we dive in, I want you to ask yourself two questions about your effort to be a "better parent:"

1. Could your hard work be at the heart of both your strengths and weaknesses as a parent?

2. Do you need to change your perception of what it means to be a good parent?

In this blog, we will explore the basic ideas of Forgivable Parenting. For example:

What Does Forgivable Parenting Mean?

1. Forgiving yourself for your own imperfections,

2. Forgiving your children for their imperfections, and

3. Adopting a flexible mind set when parenting.

What Forgivable Parenting Does Not Mean

1. Responding to “imperfect” parenting by condemning yourself.

2. Blindly following parenting “rules.”

3. Judging others’ parenting styles (unless a child is being harmed).

My mission is to use the tools I have learned as a child psychologist and parent to guide others in raising the next generation to be open-minded, curious, and resilient. The best way to do this is to model these characteristics ourselves! If this sounds like it might be useful to you, please join me in the next post!

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