Dear Maxine, 

I feel like a terrible parent. Recently, I have been so shouty with my child. She is just doing my head in. I feel like nothing I do for her is right and we’ve totally lost the connection we used to have. She’s angry all the time, which is making me angry all the time.  

I don’t want to be this parent, we used to get on well and have lots of fun together. I’ve done gentle parenting her whole life and I’m starting to think that, maybe, that’s where I’ve gone wrong. Maybe other people were right and I haven’t put enough discipline in place. 

How do we get back to where we were? 

Dear Follower, 

Thanks for getting in touch, it sounds like you’re having a really challenging time at the moment. It can be so difficult when our relationships aren’t quite what we want them to be and then we’re not behaving in the ways we wish we would. 

A few things have come up that I’m curious about: 

  1. What’s changed? 
  1. What does discipline mean? 
  1. How do you take time for yourself? 
  1. What do you do to connect with your daughter? 
  1. How do you repair when arguments happen? 

What’s changed? 

It sounds like things were going OK until recently and something has shifted. It’s not clear to me whether things have changed for you or your daughter or both of you but it sounds like everything suddenly feels a lot more overwhelming for you than it did before and so you’re less able to understand what’s going on for your daughter than you have been in the past. 

If there hasn’t been an obvious life event (change in relationship status, a move, a bereavement, change of job etc.), I’d invite you to think about what you’ve been enduring over the last year. 

Is there a chance you’re burned out? That you’ve given all you have to give and you’re now at a point where you’ve got little left? The last year and a half have been taxing for everyone and parents, often mothers, have been hit particularly hard. Could it be that you’re exhausted and that’s decreasing the amount you’re able to cope with? 

So it might not be that anything has obviously changed, more that your elastic band is straining  and so there’s an internal change that’s happened. 

Could this be the same for your daughter? Or could it be a developmental change for her? Is she finding her voice more? Is she struggling with the battle to be independent but also being dependent? Could something be going on in her friendship group? If you don’t know or she won’t share, is there a way that you can accept that this is where she is at right now and that acceptance and empathy will help it to pass? 

What does discipline mean? 

I hear you saying that you may have ‘failed’ at putting enough discipline in place and I wonder what it is you think discipline means? 

If you’re an avid follower of gentle parenting, you’re likely to understand that discipline is about teaching and learning, rather than rules and punishments. 

However, I wonder whether that’s always been your experience and understanding of discipline? Or whether, in the past, there were harsher measures in place for you? 

It can be hard to hold onto our intellectual knowledge when we’re feeling overwhelmed, and I wonder whether that could be what’s triggering your self-doubt? Rather than it being grounded in reality and what you understand to be the most helpful approach to parenting your daughter, your inner child and past experiences are coming up because your adult self is too overwhelmed to soothe them? 

How do you take time for yourself? 

If this is the case, it makes me wonder what it is you need right now? How do you think you can soothe yourself? What would taking some space for yourself look like? 

This can be different for everyone and vary day to day. Sometimes we need to connect with a friend or loved one. Sometimes we need sleep. Other times we need to nourish ourselves. Maybe exercise could be helpful. 

And maybe even having a list of possibilities feels overwhelming and you just need to stop, sit and breathe out. Hug yourself. 

How does that sound? What gets in the way of you doing that? How do you think things would be different if you were able to take that time? 

What do you do to connect with your daughter? 

Often, the less time we spend together, the more we argue. The more we argue, the less time we spend together. 

What things do you and your daughter love to do? How have you connected before? Does that still work? If not, why not? What could you do differently? 

How do you think she would feel spending time with you? How would you feel about spending time with her? What would you be apprehensive about? How might you mitigate that?  

Would having a time limit help? Lowering your expectations?  

I think often we can think that spending time with our children should be this wonderful thing that lasts for ages and feels warm and fuzzy for everyone involved.  

When, actually, it can just be a touch on the shoulder. Sharing about our day. Watching a TV programme together. Sitting near them while they’re on their phones. Asking them to show you how to play Fortnight. All for short periods is fine. 

How do you repair when arguments happen? 

Do you find this easy? Can you take responsibility for your part in the argument without becoming overwhelmed by guilt? Without becoming overwhelmed by anger at your daughter’s part?  

How do you go about bringing up the repair? How does your daughter respond? Does it feel comfortable or awkward? What do you think affects it? 

Do you feel knowledgeable about how to repair ‘ruptures’ or would you like more guidance? 

If you start to feel like the argument is going to happen again, how do you manage to stop yourself and step away? 

How do you feel having read this? 

What’s come up for you? 

What do you need? 

I’d love to hear your feedback, either in the comments or on Instagram or Facebook.