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Ever feel like the world is out to get you as a parent? Does it seem like you can’t ever get anything right?

I feel you. So hard.

I transitioned to psychology as a second career. I had worked in the demanding world of BIGLAW as an intellectual property attorney for one of the biggest law firms in the United States. The markers for my success in that world were much different.

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In terms of parenting, there was the neverending guilt for the lack of time I had for parenting, but I wasn’t constantly comparing myself to other parents I worked with for sure. All of us were sliding into home plate on our faces most of the time.

Fast forward to my working through a doctoral program with some of the country’s leading experts in adult and child psychology. Suddenly my doctoral research was becoming me-search.

I was parenting two young children while learning every way possible that you can screw up in raising a human being. And let me tell you – according to my professors and all of the studies – there are a lot of ways.

It was bound to happen.


Several years into my doctoral program I was invited to attend a departmental function with my family. Before we left, my son, who was probably 3 at the time, was having a complete meltdown.

Looking back, it was completely predictable. It was a nighttime event so he was already exhausted. (I hadn’t learned about HALT yet). We were running late. I was noticing pretty extreme fight-or-flight sensations throughout my body, ok, near panic coming mostly from my thoughts about how my professors were going to evaluate my parenting outside the lab.

What if I don’t use “pivot to praise” when my son acts out?

What if I don’t use the PRIDE skills from PCIT correctly?

What if my strategic ignoring is neither strategic nor technically ignoring?

This is going to be a disaster! Why didn’t I get a sitter!!!

Also, and this is / was tough to admit. I also suspected that my son may have some neurodevelopmental issue. I suspected that like many of his family members, he had ADHD. Despite my extensive training and experience with ADHD professionally and with family, I still would have rather he not had to deal with it. So apparently I wasn’t going to do deal with it either. (Now we all embrace ADHD as a superpower and leverage it to the hilt, but then I wasn’t feeling that.)

That night, I had tried every parenting technique in my toolkit. My husband was helpful and supportive. It should’ve all worked, but it didn’t.

Meanwhile, that evening, my younger daughter was energized, babbling, and adorable. When I glance at the clock, we have five minutes to leave. So, as often is the case, the tyranny of the urgent leads me down the highway to hell. I shift into what I sometimes call drive-thru parenting when your in a hurry and you just do whatever you can, and typically feel bad about it later.

I ordered the #1 combo. Desperate threats with a large side of guilt trip.

It always starts with an “if”. When you hear that if, you are dead. “If you don’t get off the floor now and straighten up, I’m just taking your sister.” I remember him stopping mid-tantrum and turning to me with these huge green eyes, “Mommy leave me? Mommy leave daddy home too?”

I didn’t skip a beat. All of the parenting research talks about how you have to set limits and stick to them . . .

But that little face!

And then the reverb. Suck it up, Mama! You can’t reward this behavior! What kind of parent does that? (hint: that’s shame!)

Of course the tantrum started again because I completely ignored the basics of parenting.

I told my husband my decision and he frowned, knowing I was doomed, but relented. Let’s face it. I was probably scary mommy, and he wanted no part of it. I was going to take my daughter. . . . alone.

Before leaving, I guess to double down on my brilliant logic of teaching a 3-year-old a lesson; I turned to my son and communicated that my leaving him was the result of his “bad choices.” It’s like watching a train wreck.

The last thing I remember was his face – his eyes and cheeks red from crying, his hands on the glass outstretched for me to come back, and his cries piercing me. And by that time my daughter was crying begging for her brother. Now, just writing this, I have the tears. But then, I had to “follow through.” This veneered version of the “they need to know who’s boss” and “it’s time for some tough love” gem is something we seem to have inferred from our parents and grandparents generation. Guess what though – it didn’t work when they did it to us either! If we listened, there was a price, and we paid it.

“I vowed from that moment forward that no matter what parenting skill I used or didn’t use, I was going to parent my children leading with love. ”

The event went well. My daughter was amazing and had a fan club by the time that we left. I guess I probably looked like a great parent, but I sure didn’t feel like one. My heart was aching. The consequences of my actions hit me like a ton of bricks.

When I came home, my son was asleep. My husband told me that my son had cried himself to sleep calling for me. I told him that it was never going to happen again. I remember saying to him about all of it – it stops now.

I vowed from that moment forward that no matter what parenting skill I used or didn’t use, I was going to parent my children leading with love. No short-term gain was worth making my child feel disconnected and shamed.

After many years of parenting, I feel no shame at telling that story. I actually feel self-compassion, which is miraculous. If there was one thing that I could give other parents it would be that gift – self-compassion.


Psychology has a long history of scapegoating parents and blaming them for virtually everything. Now with the advent of the internet and social media, it’s even worse. Now there are people who have no training or expertise in working with children or parents telling you how to parent on Tik Tok.

Is your child child attached? Securely? Anxiously? Avoidantly? Anxiously-Avoidantly? What kind of parent am I? Helicopter parent, tiger parent, or a snowplow parent?

One of my biggest issues with most people who offer parents advice is that often – and I imagine it’s usually done unintentionally – they use shame to get their point across, which is the last thing we need.

The advice will start like this:

  • “If parents don’t  [insert thing that guru things they should do]” then “[insert catastrophic parent failure] will happen.”
  • Or for goodness sakes, they use the word should. “Parents should do these three things to raise a well-adjusted child.” Really, just three?

This entire method of trying to help parents only hurts them, and sadly, their kids.

The research indicates that parents who are self-compassionate about their parenting – that is, with an approach more like I love my child, and I’m doing the best job that I can in my parenting – have healthier children. Self-compassion is one of the antidotes to shame because it is a pathway to connection.

In my experience, shame is one of the biggest barriers to effective parenting. Shame doesn’t help us or our children.

To help parents to learn skills to optimize their parenting while obliterating their shame, I have decided to write a multi-part parenting series. I will be outlining several key elements of parenting but doing so within a shame-free parenting lens. 

I had to do some long-term work to get there with my own parenting. Work that I’m still doing, but I have done the best that I can to never repeat that again. I have learned a great deal about parenting from my research but I’ve also learned many practical lessons from my me-search.

Several years ago, my daughter told me that she thought that I should scale my impact beyond my individual work with clients. In response, I have done podcast interviews and talks for parents at schools and businesses. However, this series and perhaps some day writing a book are my ways of paying it forward even more.

In Part 1 of this series, I will focus on emotion regulation. 

  • One critical first step of parenting effectively is regulating our own emotion.
  • If my emotional presence conveys anxiety and doubt, it is not conveying safety and “I’ve got you and your overwhelming emotions.” 
  • Given that children’s brains aren’t developed completely until young adulthood, it is also extremely helpful if we can learn how to coach them in regulating their emotions.

Watch it though. You’re not hearing any shoulds from me. This stuff is SO HARD!

I will walk you through the skills that you need with no shame monsters or shoulding all over yourself parenting allowed.

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And best of all, one of my favorite parenting techniques is how to effectively apologize. Yes, that’s right!

Not only do you not have to be perfect, but I’m telling you, please don’t try. Um, actually, I’m saying consider messing up on purpose some!

By modeling making mistakes and how to apologize for those authentically, we are teaching our children self-compassion and also shame resilience. And the good news for us as parents is that we can use all of our mistakes as “grist for the mill.”

Making mistakes becomes a requirement for actually sharpening our tools as parents. In a way, this is permission to parent powerfully – completely next level.

Until next time, happy parenting!



At my Charlotte, NC therapy office, I offer a variety of mental health services. I also offer online therapy in North Carolina and soon Florida and several other states! In my therapy practice, I work primarily with busy professionals and parents. I provide treatment for anxiety, stress, trauma, vicarious trauma, and life transitions and parenting for parents of children with anxiety- and trauma-related issues. Please contact my office to hear more about the many ways I can help you thrive and be successful at work and at home.


If you are experiencing stress but don’t think those symptoms have risen to the level of impacting your psychological health, then executive coaching may be more your style. I offer those services to professionals including healthcare providers in my coaching practice.


If you are a therapist, I provide training, consultation, supervision, and business coaching. For coaches, I provide training and coaching services. Please check my resources page.


You can also visit my blog or follow me on Facebook or Instagram where I offer more information on psychology, human behavior, and neuroscience. You can also visit my resources page for my most frequently recommended resources.

Momentum’s resources are for informational purposes only and are not intended to assess, diagnose, or treat any medical and/or mental health disease or condition. Our resources do not imply nor establish any type of therapist-client relationship. The information should not be considered a substitute for consultation with a qualified mental health or medical provider who could best evaluate and advise based on a careful evaluation.