What to Do When Your Kid’s Behavior Makes You Feel Like a Failure

by Brie Tucker

My favorite mom “saying” is the one that goes something like this…

Do you feel that way too? Tell me that I’m not alone in my insecurity.

Through my career in early childhood and parenting support, I have been trained in countless programs.

… helped many parents work through their challenges,

…and yet always feel like I am screwing things up with my own kids. Why is that?

Every time they struggle, I am sure that somehow it’s my fault. 

Here’s an example from just last week:

My son started playing an instrument at school.

He’s at home practicing and keeps struggling with the same section in the music.

After letting out a loud grunt of frustration, I hear the instrument case slammed shut.

Practice time is over!

I see his frustration and giving up when things get hard as a failure in my parenting.

He gave up too easy right now. That means he will give up later in life when things get hard.

READ: How to Build Grit in Kids: When to Push and When to Comfort

Immediately, my mind jumps ahead 5 years…10 years…20 years into the future.

He fails college, can’t hold down a job, is 30 years old, and still living at home with me! All because he quit practicing his instrument when he got frustrated.


Things got out of hand very quickly.

So I talk myself back off the ledge…

Okay Brie…what really just happened there? 

Well, he was working on something and became frustrated.


Then he stopped what he was doing.

Still okay. 

He didn’t break the instrument. And sure enough, the next day, he took his instrument to school and kept at it.

All okay actually.

That shows perseverance. It may not have been the well-skilled version I would have liked, where he didn’t stop in frustration…but he didn’t quit altogether, so the skill was still there!

He just needs more help in developing it.

What?! How did I get from here to there you ask? I used something I learned from Positive Discipline

It’s referred to as the “Two Lists”

I look at the challenging behavior: 

  • Quitting when frustrated.

And I saw the life skill he was developing:

  • Perseverance.

I’m going to teach you how to do the same thing. 

Here’s how it all works:

1) Make a list of all the behaviors that you have seen/experienced your children do in the last week that has caused you frustration, and are things you wish they would not do.

Go ahead…get down, dirty and honest. It likely looks something like this:

2) Make a second list of all the life skills that you want your child(ren) to have as adults.

What are the skills you hope to have taught them well to help them have a happy and successful adult life? It may look like this:

3) Now, take a minute, and look at those 2 lists. Do you see any young, immature versions of those coveted life skills in the first column?

Give yourself a bit of time to really look for these connections. 

4) What can you do as the parent to help your child learn and better develop those life skills?

How your child’s behavior means you’re succeeding

Column 1 challenge: My kids yell “No!” at me all the time.

Yelling “No!” when they don’t want to do something is an immature version of them speaking their mind and thinking independently.

This is a skill that someone possesses who thinks for themselves and won’t “blindly” follow the crowd. This is definitely a life skill I would want my child to have! 

Now as a parent, we have to recognize that this skill is just starting in your child.

How do I help cultivate it, grow it into the important life skill that I want my child to possess?

I can help my child by acknowledging that they have an opinion and that I appreciate it when they voice it (in a whole thought). 

But more importantly…

how do I do that before I lose my cool? Let’s face it…being told “No” to my every request is really getting old!


I can let them know:

“Some things we can speak out on and go our own way with, but in some cases, like bedtime, or chores that keep our house healthy and safe, we just have to do.”

However, the child can have a voice on how or when those things can be done sometimes, right?

For more on that, check out the No Fight Trick to Doing Chores.

Take stock of all the amazing life skills your child has budding right now.

See what those skills can become and how you can help develop them with your child.

And what do you know…you may even realize that your kid is a great kid and that you are not screwing it all up after all!

Brie Tucker

COO/ Podcast Producer at No Guilt Mom
Brie Tucker has over 20 years of experience coaching parents with a background in early childhood and special needs. She holds a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Central Missouri and is certified in Positive Discipline as well as a Happiest Baby Educator.

She’s a divorced mom to two teenagers.

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