Your choices ended badly, but you aren't necessarily a poor parent.

How to Overcome Bad Parenting Choices

by Eliza Martinez

All mothers make mistakes that make them feel like bad parents. Moving on from your poor choice is often extremely difficult, and fear of judgement might make it hard to seek help. On the bright side, your overwhelming sense of guilt is a good sign because it means you won't likely make the same mistake again. A bad decision doesn't make you a bad parent. Learning from your choice helps you do the right thing if the same situation presents itself again. It might take time, but overcoming your bad choice allows you to move on and work toward better parenting in the future.

Make a plan for next time. Your toddler fell out of the crib because you didn't know he could climb out. Or your preschooler fell down in the tub while you had your head buried under the vanity looking for a washcloth. Acknowledge your mistake, but move on by knowing what you'll do in the future. For example, maybe your toddler is ready for a big boy bed or you'll make an effort to grab a washcloth before putting your child in the tub.

Apologize to your child. Did you let loose an obscenity when your toddler painted the cat with his markers? It makes you feel better to tell your child you're sorry. Even if he's too little to really understand, he'll pick up on your remorse and begin to understand that mothers make mistakes sometimes too.

Think about all the good decisions you make regularly. Mothering is often a delicate balance between guilt for doing the wrong thing and feeling awesome for doing the right thing. Think back to the times when your choices were good ones, like that time your toddler almost fell off the changing table, but you remembered to use the strap and he stayed safe. This lifts your mood and helps you make better decisions in the future.

Seek help. Whether this is a sob session with your best mom friend or a formal meeting with a professional, support goes a long way toward putting your mistake into perspective. Maybe your decision resulted in something bad happening, such as a broken bone or other accident, but chances are your child won't remember the incident, and outsiders are probably not as quick to place blame as you might think. After all, a mother who's never made a bad decision doesn't exist.


  • If guilt or anxiety after your bad decision is interfering with your life, contacting a psychiatrist might be helpful. Talk to your family physician for a referral.

About the Author

Eliza Martinez has written for print and online publications. She covers a variety of topics, including parenting, nutrition, mental health, gardening, food and crafts. Martinez holds a master's degree in psychology.

Photo Credits

  • Darrin Klimek/Digital Vision/Getty Images