Is it too late? Have I made too many mistakes as a mother?

I find this site both helpful and irritating. As I read it, I alternately feel proud of what I have accomplished as a mother, and hopeless about the mistakes I've made. My daughter has a challenging, moody personality, and I don't think that is just from parenting. Of course, I have also made plenty of mistakes as a mother -- but don't we all? When I read this site, I worry that my daughter will have a hard time as a teenager, and that it is too late to do anything about it. Bethany Silver

Dear Bethany,
You are right that we all make mistakes as parents, and the truth is that humans are very resilient -- most of us make it through childhood in one piece. I want to inspire parents to their highest level of loving, so I try to tell the truth about what I think kids need. But the last thing I want is for you to feel hopeless, and I apologize if my approach feels irritating to you sometimes. I am glad that you also feel proud as you read things on this site that help you recognize your strengths as a parent.

For the record, I believe that a relationship can always be mended. No matter what has happened in the past, we can always do things differently now. And it is never too late to create a better relationship with your child.

The very fact that you are reading a site like this is a huge plus for your daughter, because it indicates your willingness to think hard about your parenting and to make changes. You are right, of course, that much of who we are is not a result of parenting, but of temperment. The child is always a result of what happened when her temperment interacted with a particular family. Some children are also exposed to risk factors that we can't control, from loss of a loved one to a challenging school environment.

Of course, your daughter is who she is now, but regardless of how old she is, she will change and develop. And as you change how you relate to her, and build a closer relationship, she will naturally become happier, and less of a challenge for you.

I would suggest that the single most helpful way to help your daughter get through her adolescence happily is to build a closer relationship with her now.

One way to begin is to start seeing her differently. Her challenging personality, for instance, is sure to have some silver linings. For instance, the flip side of stubborn is persistent, the flip side of reactive is sensitive. I would highly recommend Mary Sheedy Kurcinka's book Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, and Energetic. You might also check out the rest of this site for more ideas on building a closer relationship, as well as ideas for more books to read.

Good luck, and let me know how it's going. Your daughter is lucky to have a mom who cares so much!

Dr. Laura

Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids

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