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  • Writer's pictureErin Engelke

To the Mom Who Uses the F Word

I never thought I'd be the Mom to have to use it.

I never thought I’d have to.

The F word.

The word we’re afraid of and secretly never say it in public out of fear that we’re the only ones struggling with it.


I legitimately thought if I read all the parenting books, did my best to love and nurture my kids, discipline them when it seemed right, and taught them to be kind human beings, it wouldn’t be a thing I’d have to deal with. But it is.

FAILURE. There, I said it again.

It is unbelievably hard as a parent to watch our kids fail.

Shoot, it’s hard to watch ourselves fail! When our kiddos make mistakes, make a poor choice or ultimately, don’t measure up to the expectations society has said they need to live up to…we just can’t handle it.

We wanna swoop in, save the day, protect them from the pain of failure. Protect them from the judgement of others. Help make their lives “easy”. Make excuses for them.

Why is it so hard to see our kids fail?

  1. It makes us as parents feel like failures. We take our kids' choices and mistakes personally…as though we are to blame. We question what we’ve done wrong in our parenting.

  2. We are striving too hard for perfection. To admit our kids fail, means we don’t really have it all together.

  3. We’re too focused on the short term. When we over parent, take care of our kids’ problems or rescue them from consequences, we’re keeping them from learning super important life lessons. How to be competent on their own one day. How to be independent, to think on their own and how to solve problems. Failure is one of life’s best lessons!

The truth is…your kids will fail. Mine do. And I don't always get it right either. I was chatting with a friend recently and she told me her oldest son, (who is old enough to know better!) was caught humping his desk at school. Seriously!

Sometimes as parents we can't even believe what our children will do. Does that mean we're bad parents when they act a fool? Nope. More often than not, it means they're trying to figure out this thing called life, just as we are. Other times, it's just that they're not developmentally developed enough to recognize what they're doing is ridiculous. (For the record, my friend gave me permission to share her humiliation!).

Has your child been caught cheating? Bullying another child? Made crude gestures when you're out in public? Sassed you in front of the watching eye of the grandparents or judgmental friends? Thrown a temper tantrum in the middle of Target? If you answered yes to any of these questions, or can drum up your own laundry list of embarrassing antics by your little humans, then you most definitely are not alone, mama.

So what do you do when you find yourself in the F state?

  1. Talk to other parents you can trust, especially if they've walked this path already. I know how incredibly helpful it is to talk to parents who are older (and more experienced on this front). I'm always so surprised at how many of them have been through things much worse and I would have never guessed it!

  2. Find a therapist who specializes in family or child development. There is ZERO shame in talking to a third party about how your parenting style may be affecting your communication and discipline methods with your children. Even better, bring your children with you to those sessions! I'm not embarrassed to say we have taken our children to family therapy sessions ourselves and it was powerfully helpful.

  3. Never stop learning about the stage of life your child is in and what they are developmentally capable of handling. As adults, we often take for granted our kids should have common sense. BUT THEY RARELY DO.

  4. Set boundaries while being loving. Children need to know when they have crossed the line and, whether or not they admit it, do want to know what is expected of them. Be clear with your communication and be open to listening to their side of things, especially if they're older (middle to high school age). Here's an excellent book if you're struggling to let go and let your child fail successfully: The Gift of Failure.

Above all, let's do a better job of accepting the F word. Because it is normal and it will make us and our children better in the long run.

What works for you when your children fail?

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