When you feel like a parenting failure


My 5-year-old son’s piano teacher broke up with us last week.

If your first thought is “why in the world would you sign up a 5-year-old boy for piano lessons?”— you’re on the right track.

The break-up was actually a blessing. I’d been having the same thoughts: He’s just not ready, I don’t want to fight with him over going lessons instead of playing with Grandma, I want him to love music and he’s getting really tired of it, we just avoid practicing at home because it’s another cause of nagging and pushing and he gets enough of that when it’s time to get dressed or eat or go to the bathroom or get in the car every day.

Making him take a break from Legos or Pokemon or cars to hear me correct him for 20 minutes? Was not happening.

And of course, his teacher knew it. She said all the right things, was very kind, suggested another format might work better for him. I agreed, wholeheartedly, with all of it. I hadn’t wanted to back out on a commitment, or put her out and take away some of her income. So when she suggested taking a break, it was a relief.

Then the old accusing dialogue in my head started up.

Looks like you failed at that, it says. You never practiced with him. How is that showing him responsibility?

He’s so young, I say back.

Right — and you were such an idiot to sign him up in the first place.

Well, it’s over now and I know better. We’ll try again when he’s older.

Well, you probably screwed that up, too. Now he’ll hate piano forever.

Do you see a way I can win here? Me neither.


Humility or Pride?

Do you know who would never talk to me like that? Jesus.

When I let that dialogue go on, when I dwell on it, beating myself up continually over a litany of failures, it’s not humility. Jesus never beat himself up, made reference to how he could do better. He showed example after example of true humility, of a servant’s heart, of showing love, love, love to those people around him who couldn’t stop screwing up.

If I want to be like him, I need to follow his example of love, love, love — loving myself. Showing myself compassion.

Because when I go round and round about my failures, it’s actually the opposite of humility. It’s pride.

I’m embarrassed because I thought myself a “good mom,” and a good mom always has her kids practice piano. I didn’t fail my son; he’s happy to be done. He loves music, so I’m sure we’ll come back to this.

I failed to live up to my image of the perfect mother. And my pride is wounded when I recognize I’m not that woman.

And then I’m relieved when I realize that I don’t want to be her.

I don’t want to chase after a false image, or measure myself up to an ideal I could never reach.

I want to chase Jesus. And that means compassion, love and above all — grace. Grace for the mess, grace for the mistakes. Grace even for the way “good mom” got in the way again.

How do you show yourself compassion in parenting, especially when you feel like you failed?

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15 comments on “When you feel like a parenting failure

  1. Gina says:


    I have been learning (re-learning? it seems to keep coming back to me) this same lesson, and it’s so true what you said – we must speak compassion to ourselves! I have been learning this time around to honor the true desires behind the feeling of failure – to want to be a good mom, to want to do it well – whatever they are. I may not always look for their fulfillment in the best places but they are legitimate. So I’m learning to stop and linger in the moment, and see what’s underneath the voices that want to be contemptuous toward my failure, and tell myself what He would say.

    • Yes, such wisdom Gina! I think when we just let the voices run their mouths unchecked is when it can really destroy us. Recognizing their words is first, discovering the root desire behind it is a step deeper, and then replacing those accusations with what God really says about us is when the real healing can begin.

  2. Kristina says:

    Very similar issues and outcome here. Started Kier at guitar, bought him a new guitar, talked it up (and didn’t practice, my excuse was I didn’t know what I was doing) and it eventually lost its newness and the desire left. So we too are taking a break in order to preserve the love of music. And, I am still thinking of how I can “push” him back into it and don’t know why. We do we always think they have to be involved in so much, sports, music, “programs” and there is nothing left of being a family at home. Fighting that temptation to “do” right now. Thanks for your honesty and sharing life with so many.

    • Oh, that’s good to hear, love. We pulled back, out of nearly everything this school year and we’re so much happier. The kids enjoyed the activities, but I love preserving our family time even more, at least while I can. Starting piano was the only new thing we tried, and it looks like the family time will continue to be priority around here. But it’s definitely a struggle to figure out how much, and when, and how it will affect EVERYone.

      I think for me, I have to check my priorities. So often it’s because I’m trying to be a “good mom,” but when I step back and see how that good mom drive is affecting my kids? It makes me cringe a little.

      (Also? I owe you a phone call! So sorry. I have excuses, but I won’t go there. Maybe this week?)

  3. I do what you did, talk to myself that way and then realize I believed the lies I told myself, which have nothing to do with how Jesus sees me. Then I tell myself the truth, on my knees sometimes. Beautifully written and convicting.

  4. I wast to chase Jesus — love that!

  5. Beautiful. So hard to let yourself reach out and take grace.

  6. Emily says:

    My free writing was kind of about this sort of thing too. I just wanted to let you know that when I was 5, my mom tried to teach me piano (she was a piano teacher), and we ended up stopping for the same reason. I resumed lessons when I was in second grade and played piano/took lessons until I was 16. So, he’s not doomed to hate the piano 😉

    As a new mom, I’m still learning what my mom style is and how to cope with other parents who’s kids are doing things before mine. But, I’m realizing that it’s a lot about me recognizing that my little boy is who he is and is perfect just like that… and he’ll come around to whatever he’s meant to do when he does. It’s hard not to be in control, but I’m getting used to it. 🙂

  7. martha brady says:

    step one: the perfect mom does not exist. honestly. she really doesn’t. once you can believe that, you will find that you will be much more relaxed. you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else…b/c the perfect mother doesn’t even exist…just like the perfect wife! they may exist in our imagination, but that is all.

    Apart from the grace of GOD, we will not even be able to love our children and husbands well. But since He is the GOD of truth, He will help us hear the truth in our heads that is from Him, not the lies that we listen to too often.

  8. Jelli says:

    I love your statement “I want to chase Jesus.” What a great picture! I want that too, and now I think I might just borrow that phrase. Enjoy your sweet child and remember this learning experience. Thanks so much for sharing what’s on your heart. Blessings!

  9. Jen Ferguson says:

    This is a hard one for me — I can beat myself up over almost anything (i.e. losing my dog on a leash!). I think that giving in to the love of Christ is the answer — to look at ourselves as He sees us and not as WE see us. Awesome post!

  10. Tiffany says:

    Wonderful post! I am AWFUL at this. I have a tendency to beat myself up over even the smallest things. I’ve been trying to remember that I’m so good at extending grace to my family- I need to extend a bit to myself.

    (Found you from the Real Adoption Blog Hop)

  11. Sharla says:

    LOVE this post! Love it! I love the honesty in it and it resonated with me because it is the times that I turn to God and give it over to him that things turn around, so why am I so stubborn about doing that? Why don’t I go to him first?

    Thanks for joining A Real Adoption Blog Hop!

  12. So glad to have found your blog this morning. It resonates with my own thinking and writing, especially this post. I’m starting to see how the ways that I model dealing with failure will teach my children about being human, forgiveness, humility, etc. Lots to bring to prayer as I stumble along.