How Can I Forgive Myself When I Keep Making the Same Parenting Mistake?

I was having a perfectly good day with my kids. I had tamed the tantrums and gone to the park and generally been a good mom. Then I ruined it. My preschooler spent five minutes arguing and yelling and not listening at all – and when I told her to go to her room and she screamed back “no,” I reached my limit and yelled. This reaction is a shock to her and to me, every single time. The look on my daughter’s face when I unexpectedly snap makes me crumble inside. It’s a look that tells me I have betrayed her trust, that I have failed to make her feel secure. It’s a moment that makes me feel like I’m failing as a parent – that I’ll never recover from the mistakes I keep on making.

There is no worse feeling than the one I get after I yell at my kids. It doesn’t matter what they do to provoke me – I know I should be able to rise above it, and the fact that I can’t kills me. The tantrums, the limit pushing, the series of small trials that I have to face every day – I should know how to handle them by now. And yet I keep making the same mistakes, over and over again. I still yell, lose my cool, and find myself with another perfectly good day ruined. I have failed to be the calm, collected mother I want to be, and the guilt washes over me.
I want to be a better mother than this, and I don’t know how. Or perhaps worse, I know exactly how, but I can’t seem to put it into practice. I know that I want to react to my children’s erratic behavior with an even temper no matter what. I know they need me to be consistent and trustworthy and calm in the face of their inner storms. I know how I am supposed to behave, so why then is it so hard for me to be the person, the mother, I want to become?

I will set resolutions to stop yelling, only to fail the very next day. I find myself having to apologize for behavior I swore I would never succumb to again. Or I’ll work my way back to feeling like I’m doing well again, for days or even weeks, only to be blindsided by a bad parenting day. And I find it harder and harder to forgive myself – because I know I am just going to mess up all over again.

How am I supposed to tell myself I am a good mother, when I keep proving to myself otherwise? How do I move forward and find forgiveness for the failures I know I will repeat?

I go into my daughter’s room and apologize, telling her that there is no excuse for my behavior. Telling her that I will try to be better, try not to yell again, and she trusts me. She knows I mean it. My kids forgive me as soon as I apologize to them. They assure me that I am still good, that I am still loved, that I am still enough. Perhaps that is exactly why I need to forgive myself – to prove that their faith in me is not misplaced. To prove that I am fighting for them – fighting in hopes that I will eventually learn to be the mother I have always wanted to be.

I need to forgive myself to feel like the slate is clean. I need to start fresh, to move forward, to try again, to keep fighting. I need to understand that acknowledging my mistakes and shortcomings is not where my story ends. I have to get up the next day and try to be a better mother – not just for me, but for them.