Is there shame in being a shit parent? Yes. And guilt. And regret. And self-loathing. But it’s not the end of the story.

Parenting isn’t easy is fucking hard. There’s no sleeping in if you stay up late, you occasionally get another person’s poop on your fingers, and half your ice cream always gets stolen by someone a third your size.

how to be a better parent
Snarfing ice cream.

But those are the easy struggles.

Sometimes you have a 4-year-old, virile monster who won’t settle down, refuses to relax during their bedtime stories, and keeps yelling for food and water when they literally just filled their bellies with both. And half my ice cream.

How I Know I’m Shit

It’s right about 45 minutes into that situation that I lose my shit.

As negative reinforcement for her already scrambled emotional-state (exhausted and playful at the same time) I take away a book each time she gets rowdy, then a stuffed animal, then they’re all gone, and she loses her back tickle.


Her emotional state deteriorates because I’ve just removed her bedtime routine entirely as a punishment for not following her bedtime routine. Great idea, Dad.

So she starts yelling and screaming in frustration, as toddlers sometimes do. So I threaten to put her things in the garbage. She doesn’t stop. Garbage bin: book. She screams.

Garbage book. Screams. Garbage book. Yells. Garbage stuffed pig. Screams. Garbage stuffed elephant. Wails. Garbage stuffed panda.

how to be a better parent
All the things I threw away.

It doesn’t stop until we’re both mentally and physically exhausted and pass out upset with each other.

Then comes the morning. The wake-up routine goes perfectly well, and I take her to school.

On the public bus ride back to my home it hits me like a baseball bat: I’m a shit dad. I handled the previous night like a rookie.

Where do I go from here? I asked myself a question, “how to be a better parent?”

I took myself on a three-step process to right where I had wronged.

If you’re how to be a better parent, do what I did.

Take These Three Steps to Know How to Be a Better Parent

be a better parent
Me, being a good parent.

Step 1: Recognize It and Admit It.

Say it with me: “I did something shitty. I can do better.”

This is probably the hardest part because you have to own it. But taking that ownership and letting go of the idea that you’re a great parent is freeing up yourself to committing to better. You’ll set your goals higher for yourself because you know you can improve.

Once your goals have been refocused, step two is a bit easier.

Step 2: Act Sorry.

When learning how to be a better parent, it takes effort. When I got Auburn home from school, I had her books and her stuffed animals laid out on her bed.

She’s very perceptive, “I thought you threw these out!”

“I did. And that was wrong,” I put my hands on her cheeks so she would look me in the eyes. “I overreacted yesterday, and I’m sorry about that.”

be a better parent
We usually get along 🙂

I’m not sure exactly what was going through her mind at that moment, but I hope it was understanding. Understanding that I’m not perfect, and that’s okay, even though my reaction wasn’t. Understanding that I’m trying my best and I can admit when I’m wrong. Understanding that I love her, even if I don’t always show it.

The important thing here is that I’m not just saying I’m sorry, I’m acting sorry. Her books and animals were cleaned and placed nicely on her bed. I made eye contact with her while I sincerely apologized.

It goes a long way, and if you’ve set your new goals to reach that standard of recognizing and reconciling your mistakes, you’re already on the path to becoming a better parent.

That brings us to step three.

Step 3: Do better.

I’m not going to be using my negative reinforcement tactic of throwing away books and toys anymore. It’s counter-productive and only escalates the situation. I want to honestly know how to be a better parent.

how to be a better parent
She’s generally a happy kid and makes it easy to be a parent.


That doesn’t necessarily mean that my next tactic is going to be a useful and effective one, but I’m going to try.

I’ve been reading about using fewer words and remaining nonchalant in times of stress; enacting those behaviors have been a different story, but I like to think I’m improving.

And that’s what step three is all about: doing better. It’s about making an effort by reading, exploring, and experimenting with what works for you.

All you have to do now is repeat steps 1-3 for the rest of your parenting life, and you should eventually be a substantial parental figure.

how to be a better parent
Is your kid this cool? Mine is, duh.

Parenting is a wild ride–are you in control?

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Two Healing Words

After a day of rain drumming on the bungalow’s tin roof, my 3-year-old would say two words that would help me in forgiving myself. The strength, the clarity, the confidence that she showed me through those two words helped me understand that the strongest amongst us are missing something when we punish ourselves for making mistakes. We focus on the wrong like it’s a stain on our only shirt, thinking everyone will see only that and judge us accordingly. My daughter’s two words help me realize something we all need to understand, ‘it’s okay.’ Failing isn’t nearly as important as what we do after we fail.

*You’ll see some affiliate links here, check out this link for a full-break down of what that means. Hint: my links cost you nothing!

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Auburn doesn’t care if she fails, the first time she did this the seat knocked her forehead

Why Do We hurt?

In today’s social media atmosphere where we are constantly bombarded with images of the exceptional, it’s easy to feel inferior. The companies who advertise on social media know I am a traveling Dad, so the advertisements I see are about top-notch parents who never fail, travelers who make five figures a month working just 2 hours a week, and images of people working on hilltops, swinging in a hammock, or (most unbelievably) working right on the beach! What a bunch of crap.

 

Even if everything I am seeing is real, those images are denoting the .01% of people who are actually involved in any of those activities. Every parent repeatedly fails, travelers travel because it’s cheaper than staying in one place, and digital nomads like myself work at a desk. Can you imagine having your computer out at the beach for 8 hours? If you can, then you should also imagine the next computer you’re going to need because the sand, water, light, and elements are going to destroy your gear.

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This is not a work place, Nang Yuan Island, Thailand

So It’s all BS?

Marketing is all BS. They show the outliers, the freaks-of-nature, the rare runes. When you see these outstanding people every day, all the time, how can you not compare yourself to them? Your average life, your average job, your average face. This isn’t crap you can easily change, so when you can’t be extraordinary, you feel like shit, because you’re just average, and you’re a failure. Mark Manson touches extensively on this in his book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.

Those Two Words

When my daughter stirred that night, at first just uncomfortable because her blanket was off her, I heard her whimper in the darkness. Once, then twice, a soft, third time. ‘What’s wrong honey?’ I asked her. Her little voice sniffled out, ‘I miss Mommy.’ I was instantly back to hating myself again, forgetting how hard I’m trying to love myself. My mind jumps to all my mistakes, what I’ve done to put Auburn in this position, a series of events leading up to her waking up and crying at 11 pm because she doesn’t have a ‘Mom.’

She crawls over to me and falls into my arm, I feel her tears drip onto the inside of my bicep. I squeeze her lightly, ‘I know sweetie, you got your Daddy here.’ A tear of mine drips unnoticed on her hair, ‘You’ve got lots of people who love you, Aubi,’ a few more whimpers from her. Her hand moves up across my neck, she stops crying, smiles, kisses me on the curve between my nose and cheek, ‘I know Daddy, it’s okay.’

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Sometimes she sleep with undies on her head

It’s Okay

You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be the outlier, the extreme example, the super-parent, the model, or the charming one. Like Mark Manson says in his book, ‘What is objectively true about your situation is not as important as how your come to see the situation.’ I’m an average parent and person, I constantly fail. But my little girl looks at me with the strength of a General, smiles, and says ‘it’s okay.’ It’s okay to be normal, it’s okay to fail, it’s okay to occasionally hate yourself for the things you’ve done. Failing, and feeling like a failure are a part of what makes us strong people.

If our minds couldn’t adapt to failure, we wouldn’t have evolved and spread across the world battling Smilodon, direwolves, and eating giant furry elephants. You think our ancestors had an easy time dealing with seeing their children shredded by a 400 pound cat? Or having dental work done with rocks? Or living only to the ripe old age of 36? No, we were all bred to be strong. Our strength runs in our DNA, that is our average. Our average is a lineage of survivors who failed all the time, and succeeded because of it. It’s okay to be average, to fail repeatedly, as long as you learn from it. That’s the best lesson our diseased and ill-fated ancestors can teach us. It’s okay to be human, to fail, and love yourself regardless. Sometimes it just takes a 3-year-old whispering it to you at night to understand that.

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3-year-olds know it will be okay

*You’ll see some affiliate links in here to the books I mention, I only link up to things I find truly valuable to the reader.