Dear Maxine, 

Thank you for sharing your ideas for reflections, I find them really helpful. The only thing is I feel like it’s too late for me. My child isn’t a baby anymore and I’ve been an angry, stressed and controlling parent for so long, I don’t know how to come back from it. I’m trying to do things differently but my child doesn’t seem to be responding well to it. She doesn’t seem to believe me and is always angry and aggressive in response. I just feel like it’s too late, there’s too much repair to do and I don’t know where to start so I give up before I get going.  

Any insights you might have would be gratefully appreciated. 

Dear Follower, 

Thanks for getting in touch. I can really understand your overwhelm and can see why that would feel paralysing – when we’re used to being critical of ourselves it can be difficult to shift into a different mindset. We’re usually in a survival mindset, where things can be classified as ‘failures’ and we feel terrible when we get things ‘wrong’. 

So I guess my first question would be: 

What would it be like if there was no right or wrong?  

If failure was not an option, not because the stakes are too high but because there’s no such thing as failure? 

How does that feel to you? For a lot of people it can bring about even more anxiety. If that happens, get curious. Take a breath and let it out. Keep breathing out. Pause, and wonder ‘what’s so stressful about there being no right or wrong?’. What comes up for you?  

Could you get to a place where you can be kind with yourself? You could think about the things you’ve done that you haven’t liked and understand that they are part of your learning, rather than being because you were getting it ‘wrong’? Just, you didn’t know any different then? 

How does that sound? What would you say to your child if they were doing something you didn’t like? Would you shout at them or could you understand that they just need more help in finding a different way? 

If you think it’s too late now, how will you feel in 10 years? 

I can totally understand the feeling that it’s too late, you look back at your life and see how much you’ve done that you wish you hadn’t. So you keep doing the same thing.  

And, can you imagine looking back 10 years from now? A bit like when you looked back 5 years ago and thought it was too late but now you see that you weren’t as old then as you are now? 

Imagine if, in 10 years, you look back and you’ve made the change. It took time. It took hard work. But it happened. Can you be proud of yourself? Would you be able to see the difference that has made to you and your daughter? 

How do you understand your daughter’s responses? 

It sounds as though you already have a bit of insight into where she might be at. She’s used to receiving one thing from you and she doesn’t trust that this new you is here to stay. 

She may also not know what to do with this kindness. From what you’ve said, she’s used to having a fight, so she’s prepared for one. The kindness may not even register. 

As such, it seems important to keep communication as open with her as possible. 

Have you explained what you’re doing? That you want to change? Have you acknowledged what happened in the past? How would it be to do that? 

Can you imagine having a conversation that goes something like this: 

‘Hey, can we chat for a minute? (make sure she’s open to this, if she says no, check when would be a good time) 

I’ve been doing a lot of reading a reflecting recently and I’ve realised that I haven’t always been the mum I’d hoped I would be. There are a lot of reasons for that, and I’m working on understanding them and doing something about them. And I want you to know that I’m really sorry for the times that I’ve shouted when I haven’t needed to, when I haven’t understood what was going on for you or haven’t been available to listen like I’d have liked to. I want things to be different now and I’m trying to be more understanding and calmer.  

Would you be able to do something for me? If ever there’s a time when you think I’m not getting it or not listening, would you be able to let me know? How do you think we could do that? 

I also understand that because you’re used to me fighting with you, you’re expecting that quite often, plus you probably feel angry a lot of the time. So we’re going to work together to make it easier for you so you don’t need to feel like you need to protect yourself so much.’ 

This isn’t a word for word thing. It’s about getting a feel for it. There might be lots more you want to say. You might not want to say all of that. It’s about giving you a template for how you can address this with your daughter and how you can think about these things with her.  

It’s also really important to think about how you might respond to anything she says to you at this time. You’re being open and vulnerable, so you’re likely to feel more criticised than usual. If she doesn’t take it well, how can you remember that that’s not because you’re a bad person or because you’ve got it wrong or failed, but it’s about where she’s at? How can you stay open and vulnerable in response to anything she throws at you, safe in the knowledge that you’re doing your best? 

How can you forgive yourself? 

You speak about having ‘too much to repair’ and feeling overwhelmed by making amends. I wonder whether there’s something about repairing with yourself, as well? Forgiving yourself for what has happened by understanding, by understanding that you were still learning. And then celebrating yourself for continuing to learn and grow and develop. 

What gets in the way of allowing yourself that forgiveness? 

What do you think it would be like for you if you could forgive yourself? How do you think it would affect your relationship with yourself? Your relationship with your daughter? 

Can you imagine what a gift it might be to your daughter to model self-forgiveness? 

I guess the other thing I’m thinking is that you are going to shout again. You are going to lose your temper. You are going to find things hard. Because we all do. Even the most well-informed, peaceful, patient parents have a limit. And if you haven’t forgiven yourself your past, how much more difficult do you think it will be to forgive yourself your current?  

How does this sound to you? 

How do you feel now that you’ve read it? 

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.