Irrational Belief #6: I failed to protect my child, and so I'm a failure as a parent
How could I have let this happen? If only I had... If only I wasn't so... My God, it's all my fault. I'm a failure as a parent.
If this sounds familiar, like somehow we’ve peered inside your head and peeled away the very thoughts in your mind, then you’re likely immersing yourself in another common irrational belief pattern: taking one failure and/or bad event and using it as a marker to gauge your entire essence as a parent or as a person.
Even if you attribute the worst possible actions to yourself; one of complete negligence or irresponsibility, one mistake does not make a person a failure as a parent. Nor does even a string of mistakes or a string of failures, or perhaps the same failure over and over again. And yes, there are some bad, and even some downright horrible parents out there, but they seldom take the time to read parenting advice on our website, so I doubt you’re one of them. As Rusk & Rusk (1988, p. 19) observe, “the vast majority of parents have always done the best they could, given their beliefs and circumstances.”
Besides, such thinking is not only counterproductive, but completely irrelevant. It's a waste of time to dwell in the past. You’re expending time and energy to do so...energy that would be much better spent on productive agendas. I don’t care if you’re handed your child over on a silver platter to the boogeyman himself, (or maybe acted in a way towards them befitting of the boogeyman). It's completely irrelevant - remnants of the past. What matters now is your actions in the present, so don’t go beating yourself up over “would have, could have, should have's.”
Most important of all, you’re doing your best to address the situation and help your child now. As you read these words, with every paragraph, you’re taking steps to protect them from hurt, and you're trying to do what’s necessary to provide comfort and healing. You're ensuring that any negativity in their lives will be eliminated. You’re making sure this experience strengthens them, not weakens them. You’re learning information that will help better yourself as a parent, so that you can offer those children around you the best care possible. That’s all any parent can realistically do, and the good news is that this usually matters much more than ‘what happened’ any day of the week.
Remember: Positive or negative life outcomes are not determined by what happens in our life... it’s determined by how we respond to what happens in our life.