It’s a good thing you’re not perfect! Guest post by Dr. Laura Markham

**I can’t tell you how honored and excited I am to have Dr. Laura Markham from Aha! Parenting here today with this wonderful, insightful, and encouraging guest post. I’ve been a fan of hers for a while now and regularly read her words of wisdom and advice when it comes to this roller coaster that is parenting. What’s more is she just released her new book, Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids and will be giving away a free copy to one of our lucky readers. Just leave a comment below for your chance to add this invaluable book to your parenting library.**

Have you ever:

  • Been flooded by remorse because you lost your temper?
  • Wished you could hit the erase button to wipe out something you said to your child?
  • Worried that you’ve damaged your child’s psyche?

If you didn’t answer Yes to at least one of these questions, you’re probably not a parent.

We all have hard times when we know we’re messing up but just can’t seem to stop ourselves before we open our mouths. The bad news is, parenting is the toughest thing we do, and the hardest part of all is regulating ourselves. We’re only human, and that means there’s no way for us to be perfect.

But there’s good news, too. Our kids don’t need us to be perfect. In fact, it’s a good thing you’re not perfect! If you were, imagine what you’d be modeling for your child – an unattainable standard. Your poor child would feel like he could never measure up. What kids need from us is the space to be imperfect, to be loved and accepted exactly as they are. That’s the only place any of us can start from to grow.

Maybe worse, if you were a perfect parent, your child wouldn’t learn that all human relationships experience strains and small tears, but we can repair them and make them stronger. Our children learn this beginning in infancy, when we inevitably fail, at times, to attune to them. Let’s say we’ve been having a lovely time playing with our baby. We shake the rattle and he laughs uproariously. But after a while, his excitement overwhelms him. He feels himself spinning out of control, frightened. He needs to calm himself, to return to a lower level of arousal. He looks away.

Some parents would notice right away and realize their baby needs a break. But maybe, at least this time, not us. We’re having such a good time. It’s so exciting to see our little one so happy! And maybe there’s more; maybe we’re not feeling so great about our parenting right now because soothing the baby can be challenging, but look, we can make him laugh, and laugh more…So we miss his cue. He continues to look away, even though we get in his face and shake the rattle more insistently. He’s overwhelmed. His face crumples. He begins to cry.

So we misattuned. Our intrusiveness actually drove our baby to tears! Is he damaged for life? Luckily, no. We can make a repair.

We take a deep breath and shift gears, from excitement to soothing. We pick our little guy up and begin to speak soothingly. He continues to cry, but less loudly, and his breathing slows. He’s calming down. He’s learned that the universe isn’t perfect and sometimes he has to raise his voice to be heard, but he has the power to repair a rift in your relationship. Because you responded quickly to his distress— which has been shown to be the most important attunement factor in how infants adjust—he’s learned that it’s a safe universe and he can count on you to respond when he needs you.

Your little one has just learned an important lesson about relationships and trust. He’s also learned an important skill. Quick parental repair after a rupture in empathy is part of how children build resilience, or the faith that things will work out if they just keep trying. In fact, every time we misattune, our little one gets a small chance to practice regulating himself without our help. Sometimes he won’t be able to, but often he will, and with practice he’ll learn how— just like taking those first steps. So while you don’t want to intentionally create difficult experiences for your child— life will supply plenty without your assistance— your misattunements really are learning opportunities as long as they’re followed by reconnection and outweighed by positive moments.

Is this also true for older children? Yes! When we respond to our child’s anger by yelling, we’re misattuned. (If we were attuned to our child’s upset, we’d realize that her anger is a red flag that she needs help with some deeper tears and fears, and we wouldn’t take her anger personally – so we wouldn’t yell.)

Luckily, we can model how to repair a relationship rupture. “I’m so sorry I yelled at you, Sweetie…You don’t ever deserve to be yelled at….Let’s try a Do-Over….Here’s what I meant to say.” As long as our parenting blunders are followed by reconnection and outweighed by positive moments, they’re learning opportunities for our children.

What if we don’t catch ourselves quickly? It’s never too late to apologize. When we step up and do the hard emotional work to let go of being right, to open our hearts, we teach our children how to do that, too.

Just think. If you never apologized, your child would never learn how to apologize, either.

Aren’t you glad you aren’t perfect?

Dr. Laura Markham is the author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting and the editor of AhaParenting.com. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter (@DrLauraMarkham). Leave a comment below to win your free copy of her new book. One of your comments will be chosen at random this Friday December 14, 2012 and the winner will be notified by email.

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66 Responses to It’s a good thing you’re not perfect! Guest post by Dr. Laura Markham
  1. Paula
    December 12, 2012 | 5:17 am

    Perfect timing…I really needed that reminder!

  2. Keely
    December 12, 2012 | 5:52 am

    Itching to read this book!

  3. Wendy
    December 12, 2012 | 6:37 am

    This is a good post to remember. I have a 1 and 1/2 year old, and I already feel bad about times I became frazzled and let it be heard or shown to my little girl. I know she does not have full language skills yet, but I always apologize and explain my behavior to her anyway. I find that sometimes just doing this helps me to not repeat the behavior(s). But I know it is not the lapses, but the consistent patterns that matter overall. Thanks for this positive reminder. :)

  4. Sara
    December 12, 2012 | 7:29 am

    Looking forward to reading the new book! Thank you!

  5. Shanna
    December 12, 2012 | 7:47 am

    Thank you for this post. I struggle often with trying to handle everything “perfectly.” I would love to read the book and learn more.

  6. Kim
    December 12, 2012 | 8:34 am

    so need this reminder!!

  7. erickajen
    December 12, 2012 | 9:57 am

    every time i read something like this i learn something new. im really good at connecting at times, and im really bad at not yelling other times. but i need to connect those two things, be more conscious of the times i yell and changing that to “i shouldnt have yelled…”. thats important because it will start making new pathways in my brain i think! maybe eventually, ill remember i will have to apologize for yelling BEFORE i yell… that will be a good day!

  8. mel
    December 12, 2012 | 10:11 am

    just the article I needed to read today. thanks!

  9. Jeanna
    December 12, 2012 | 10:41 am

    Thanks for this post. I struggle with this sometimes, and this puts it into a good perspective. At least we can take those moments we regret and turn them into a positive lesson.

  10. Felicia
    December 12, 2012 | 11:00 am

    I would love to win a copy of the book! I read her web site regularly but I think I could get my husband to read an actual book more easily and bring him on board too. Thanks for having a giveaway!

  11. Holly
    December 12, 2012 | 11:12 am

    Thank you for this! This is such a great reminder. I recently found ahaParenting.com and found it at the perfect time when I was frustrated with my strong-willed child! I cannot wait to read Dr. Laura’s book!

  12. Rachel Hildebrandt
    December 12, 2012 | 11:14 am

    I read a lot of parenting books and websites and try so hard to be a good parent, and sometimes I fall into the trap of then becoming a perfectionist about parenting and holding myself to unrealistic ideals. Thanks for this reminder!

  13. Meredith
    December 12, 2012 | 11:15 am

    Wow! So perfectly timed for me! I’m hearing You loud and clear, God! intentional parenting is so much more difficult than i thought it would be. But worth every single second of my time and energy. Thanks for this! These posts are always so timely and right on point

  14. Hayley rose
    December 12, 2012 | 11:15 am

    Such a timely reminder for me! Thank you!

    • Zuzana
      December 12, 2012 | 12:05 pm

      I think I cannot quite express my huge thanks. I am now down with a bad case of angina: swollowing means bad pain and I have no energy at all. My two boys (4,5 and 7) are just recovering. Do I need to say more? Not to an experienced parent… Thanks to this artickle, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Including(!) crashing and burning I have accualy done well! Who would tell???

  15. Tori Gamble
    December 12, 2012 | 11:15 am

    This post is wonderful and reading anything by Dr. Laura always gives me such beautiful perspective just when I need it.

    • Melissa
      December 17, 2012 | 10:41 am

      Tori, you are the lucky winner of Dr. Laura’s new book! I will be sending her your email today and she will get that out to you! Congratulations and have a wonderful day!!

      • Tori Gamble
        December 17, 2012 | 2:10 pm

        Melissa and Dr. Laura-Thank you so much!

  16. Lisa lennon
    December 12, 2012 | 11:36 am

    So perfect for today! Thanks!

  17. Alecia
    December 12, 2012 | 11:36 am

    Just got the book! Can’t wait to read it, love all the info from Dr. Laira’s site! Thank you for changing the world one family at a time!

  18. Sarah
    December 12, 2012 | 11:48 am

    Love reading Dr. Laura’s emails and would love to win the book but if not, I’ll be purchasing it soon!

  19. Stacia
    December 12, 2012 | 11:55 am

    Love Dr. Laura! I follow her blog and would love to read her book. It’s on my wishlist :)

  20. Amy
    December 12, 2012 | 11:55 am

    This is such a great reminder – I love Dr. Laura!

  21. Tiffany H
    December 12, 2012 | 12:10 pm

    I love how insightful she is! What a nice reminder to forgive ourselves and not be ashamed to ask our children for forgiveness as well! I would LOVE this book! Ill share with my friends for sure! Thanks again, great article!

  22. Brittany
    December 12, 2012 | 12:30 pm

    I really needed this today!!! Thank you:)

  23. Tricia
    December 12, 2012 | 12:33 pm

    I definitely needed to read this today. Thank you :)

  24. Lily Bristow
    December 12, 2012 | 1:00 pm

    I sooooo needed this today!! thank you!! I’d love to win a copy of Dr. Markham’s book and will begin to follow you as well Dr. Mom!

  25. DinkyInky
    December 12, 2012 | 1:04 pm

    Boy do I ever see this! There are days I goto bed in tears thinking I am the worst Mom ever. Being a single Mom has a very sobering effect on me at times.
    While I never miss the “devil may care” times that my single childless friends have, I do wish that sometimes I didn’t have to do this alone.
    I have friends that come and slap the “pity party” right out of me, and give me the help that sometimes I’m too afraid to ask for. It’s these times I reflect on most often, because I have found that in Parenthood, my friends have also become family, as they help me learn more about not just myself, but about being a better parent.
    It sometimes is the hardest thing I ever do, but I now ask for help, so the one who matters most doesn’t see me in my “Bad Mommy Mode”. I now always end each night with us forgiving each other. We both have better sleep that way.

    Thanks for the introspective and insightful post.

  26. Genevieve
    December 12, 2012 | 1:52 pm

    I love the do-over — I’m by no means perfect but I am doing my best day-by-day. I think parenting is a continual growing process. I just keep doing my best and take the do-overs now and again.

    Thank you for your giveaway, I really want this book! :D

  27. Michelle Sanders Brinson
    December 12, 2012 | 2:04 pm

    I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief when I read this. I’m a single mom to a precious 3-year-old little boy. I work full-time, plus work several freelance jobs just to make ends meet. I feel stressed out most of the time, then I get so mad at myself for being so impatient. I remind myself daily… he’s a little boy and I love him and I need to slow down, take a deep breath and just be. Thanks for sharing this today!

  28. Robert Case
    December 12, 2012 | 2:22 pm

    Dr. L is the bomb! I’m so grateful to her for her writing and wisdom. I would encourage everybody to check out the fantastic resource that is her site- ahaparenting.com

  29. Elizabeth
    December 12, 2012 | 2:24 pm

    A very good reminder

  30. amber
    December 12, 2012 | 2:32 pm

    I LOVE getting Dr. Laura’s emails and I would be so pleased to win a copy of her book!!

  31. Erin Griffin
    December 12, 2012 | 2:45 pm

    Thank you! This is the lesson of the week for me, there are many but I’m trying to be compassionate and gentle with myself. I feel like I’m failing at this positive parenting thing because things are hard with my 3.5 who just became a big bro. I’m having to remind myself that I’m learning too, i didn’t grow up in a positive parenting household how can i expect perfection and total control over my emotions and responses when I’m just learning too. Hopefully it’ll be a little smoother ride for my second!

  32. Sara Brown
    December 12, 2012 | 2:46 pm

    Such a good reminder. It’s work every day to stay calm when my little one is into everything and always seems to go for the dangerous stuff. I would love a copy of the book.

  33. Rebecca
    December 12, 2012 | 2:55 pm

    You have no idea how perfectly timed this is. I just had a huge fight with my son and am feeling horrible. Thank you for this post.

  34. Shannon
    December 12, 2012 | 4:33 pm

    Dr. Laura is such a comfort to me. I don’t know how, but it seems every time I read something she’s written, her words are exactly what I needed to hear. Amazing.

  35. Whitney
    December 12, 2012 | 4:59 pm

    Just what I needed to read and hear. I would love this book!

  36. Marianela Aybar
    December 12, 2012 | 5:12 pm

    I would love to win a copy of her book. I need her constant reminders and this was perfect this week since I was feeling less than perfect

  37. Deb
    December 12, 2012 | 6:51 pm

    Look at all these comments. Look how supportive to us Dr. Markham’s work is. And this is one blog on one day! I love thinking about how far-reaching your help is. We need it so much, and more and more (I think, I hope!), there is a deep shift in cosciousness that is allowing us to be ready for this kind of parenting.
    I join the parents on this page in saying I am endlessly grateful for your work, your encouragement, your compassion. You are making a contribution to my personal growth, and therefore to my children’s wellbeing as well. I send you love and gratitude.

  38. Joanne
    December 12, 2012 | 7:52 pm

    I’m a Grammie & this was a great reminder for me as well. Sharing in my grandson’s life is a blessing as well as frustrating at times. Patience is hard to come by sometimes, no matter how many years you’ve been parenting.

  39. Sophy
    December 12, 2012 | 7:57 pm

    I find Dr Laura insightful and thought-provoking – I’m learning (with my third child) how to parent in a different way. I wish I’d come across her earlier (and I am going to apologise to my eldest).

  40. Heidi Roman
    December 12, 2012 | 8:01 pm

    Wonderful post! I really respect the work that both Dr. Markham and Dr. Arca do to help parents. Can’t wait to read the book.

  41. Elisa
    December 12, 2012 | 8:40 pm

    Would love to add this great resource to my library!

  42. Michelle
    December 12, 2012 | 8:52 pm

    I can’t wait to read this book!!! Love you Dr. Laura!

  43. Sheena
    December 12, 2012 | 10:31 pm

    Must read for me. I always worry I have damaged her for life when I get impatient…

  44. Lucy Atkinson
    December 13, 2012 | 1:07 am

    Exactly! What good timing for me to read and to share with all the mums I work with. I really dislike losing my temper, it is so good to be reminded how ‘normal’ it is. And I do really appreciate the times I say ‘sorry’ to my children, and to know it will help them as they grow older. Thank you for this post!

  45. Sully
    December 13, 2012 | 2:13 am

    Thank you! I needed to read this today. I am a big fan of Dr. Laura and I’d love to read her book. With three little ones under five years old, her advice on parenting is always a welcome read.

  46. Janet Dubac
    December 13, 2012 | 3:29 am

    Very uplifting post–just what I needed! Thank you Dr. Laura for reminding me that the true joy of parenting is not in being able to do all things perfectly but in being able to impart the right lessons to my children.

    I have to keep reminding myself from now on that I do not need to be perfect to be a good parent!

  47. Eden Ellis
    December 13, 2012 | 5:41 am

    I need to get ahold of a copy!

  48. April Mena
    December 13, 2012 | 6:46 am

    I have 1 boy and 3 girls and all of them have been different. Lately it’s been like a Merry-go-round with my 8 year old and 11 year old girls. I think I regret things that I say or that happen on a daily basis. This book seems like it will have good insite because I am not perfect by far.

  49. Tania Reed
    December 13, 2012 | 7:35 am

    I recently found Dr Markham’s advice through my Chiropractor here in Cornwall, UK. She is Canadian and knows an awful lot of practitioners around the world and she recommended one of Dr Markham’s blogs. I am now signed up to Aha Parenting newsletters and twitter following, using the great advice with our almost 2 year old girl who is very adept at language. She is always thanking us for dinner, lunch etc. and even out of the blue moments where she knows something is afoot and shows empathy towards humans/dogs/guinea pigs and other such things as toys! I have been lucky enough to look after her full time but i am working on family business part time since november so our parents look after her and they are happy to use the phrases recommended by the newsletters I’ve read. I particularly like the fact I can see where, as a teacher previously, I used to sometimes get cross and take things personally, now as a parent i am able to realise what good comes from calm and relaxed manner so children can see the benefit of language (vocal and body) and respond in a natural way. I allow our child time to be loud and shout and scream because I know we all need that space…she also knows that sometimes it will frighten the animals in the house so she respects them and loves them by calming her voice down without us having to remind her.
    I was looking at this book for Christmas so I would love to win a copy!!
    Thanks for the pearls of wisdom…

  50. Kimberly Meigh
    December 13, 2012 | 7:37 am

    I feel like I need to post this on my bathroom mirror and read it every morning before I interact with my little one! I love this!

  51. Gillian
    December 13, 2012 | 7:54 am

    As someone who is always striving to do better it’s really nice to know that my imperfections have their uses too in helping my child grow.

  52. Monica
    December 13, 2012 | 9:15 am

    I really need to work on apologizing. After I yell, sometimes I have mixed feelings….guilt and also feeling like maybe my kids deserved a higher toned voice (yelling). That is wrong. I wouldn’t ever appreciate for example my husband thinking that of me, “she deserved that”. I née to remember to treat my kids equally, like I expect to be treated. And I need to start apologizing. I love this blog. I love Dr. L!

  53. [...] post titled, “It’s a Good Thing You’re Not Perfect!” gave me the idea to share my thoughts on imperfection in parenting with you. The post talks about [...]

  54. Wendy
    December 13, 2012 | 10:01 am

    Thank you for this reminder, I needed it today. I’m thinking I may need too read this book if it’s filled with great helpful words like this.

  55. Wendi
    December 13, 2012 | 12:37 pm

    I’ve been reading your stuff for a while. It’s difficult to make a change to this type of parenting overnight like I would like, but over time I am seeing it pay off. Thanks.

  56. Joel
    December 13, 2012 | 1:55 pm

    I frequently learn to be a better husband by implementing the same parenting techniques described here and on the blog. So double thanks!

  57. Jen
    December 14, 2012 | 5:09 am

    For me, Aha Parenting is teaching much more than parenting my 1year old. It’s also teaching me how to cope with, and help my husband cope with, his very messy childhood. The broken family he comes from has affected him to the deepest level, and often the advice Dr Laura gives is VERY applicable to our interactions. When I apply her advice for toddler meltdowns to arguments with him, I often find they become conversations. So yes, I AM glad I’m not perfect. With Dr Laura’s advice though, I do become a better person.

  58. Diane Weiss
    December 14, 2012 | 7:38 am

    Dr. Laura,
    Thanks for your wise words. They seem to always come perfectly timed to share with a client who is struggling with your “issue of the day.” This post is no exception! Coming to terms with being a “good enough” parent, forgiving ourselves for our imperfections, and as you note, embracing are imperfect moments as opportunties, is a tall order for all parents. I will be sharing this post with a mom who is a “yeller” and who is looking for better ways to be with her children, and many more parents in the future.

  59. Danielle
    December 14, 2012 | 11:21 am

    Dr. Laura always says what I need to hear, just when I need to hear it. Her wisdom is wise beyond her years and I am so grateful for every word.

  60. Ruth Buller
    December 14, 2012 | 2:17 pm

    That was insightful. Thank you. I find myself apologizing to my 2 1/2 year old quite often:( I’m hoping that by instilling this habit now, while my pride doesn’t seem so stepped on, I can continue this habit when he’s older. It was good to be reminded that I’m modeling for him how to apologize. At least something good comes of my foibles!

  61. Claudia Jaramillo
    December 14, 2012 | 6:14 pm

    Looking forward to this enlighting book!

  62. Margarida A
    December 17, 2012 | 4:39 am

    I found your blog recently and have been reading and reading and reading as much as I can every night before going to sleep. I have a hard time not to yell to my little ones as to the pre-adolescents (and the childish father) and I really don’t like it… I don’t like myself like that!!! I’m very stressed with the tons of things I need to do and they often don’t cooperate… Is very good to know that I’m not expected to be perfect but I’ve realized I still have a long way to go! And I expect your help, Dr Laura, in this journey with the wonderfull tips you write. Thank you so much for being there!!!
    Margarida A from Portugal

  63. [...] Laura Markham offers some really useful tips for how to respond when you see your child being treated aggressively by another child. Also, as a guest-post on another site, she writes about the benefits of not being a perfect parent, and of making parenting mistakes. [...]

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