Everyone has those days — days that you wish you could just do all over again. Sometimes, it starts first thing in the morning. You get out of bed in a bad mood (having slept way too little the previous night, what with all the interruptions from the little ones). And yet, whether you have the energy for it or not, "the show must go on." You've got to get the kids out the door on time, cleaned, dressed, fed and all the rest. Of course, they're fighting and balking and dawdling – not helping at all and in fact, making it harder for you. Is it any wonder that you just start screaming? Your nerve endings feel fried, and it's not even 8:30 a.m.


So you get them out the door, but then the bad feelings start. "What kind of parent am I? What's wrong with me? They're only children, after all. I know I'm destroying them with my temper. OK, it's their fault for not listening, but still – this can't be good. I never wanted to be a screamer like my parents and look what's happening to me!"

The inner critic pounds away, convincing you that you are a complete parenting failure. In the midst of the brow-beating, your spouse telephones for a friendly check-in; you respond unkindly. Your mood is foul. It pours over into your marriage. After all, if your spouse would help more in the morning, you wouldn't be so frazzled would you? See? This isn't your fault after all. It's your spouse's fault for letting you down and not partnering properly!

The shifting of blame helps for a few minutes, but then it's back to feeling bad. Now the inner critic reminds you that you are both a bad parent and a bad spouse. You can't be nice to anyone. You're starting to feel depressed and exhausted, and hopeless. Your "yelling diet" has been no more successful than any other diet you've ever tried. On for a few days and then off again. It's just too hard.

Welcome to Parenting

You are not alone. Parenting brings out the best – and the worst – in everyone. No matter how much we love our children, we will find ourselves saying and doing things that we later regret. We're only human, after all. Sometimes we are so tired, we can't even think straight, let alone solve a difficult parenting problem. Sometimes the state of our health interferes with our better judgment, or the state of our finances or the state of our marriage. In other words, stress, separate and apart from parenting issues, wears us down, eventually spilling over to the way we parent. These are not excuses for bad behavior – there is no justifiable reason to treat our kids poorly. They are, however, contributing factors. They help explain why we succumb to our "yetzer hara" – our evil inclination. Stress weakens us, making it harder for us to resist the dark forces lurking inside.

Indeed, one of the biggest challenges in our parenting endeavors is to gain the upper hand. We have to learn how to keep our voices down or even keep our mouths closed in moments of intense parenting pressure. When we're racing against the clock, when too many children want too many things from us all in the same moment, when everything seems to be going wrong, we have to learn how to stay cool, calm and in control. We have to master and gain control over ourselves, before we can expect to gain control over our household. But it is a learning process. It takes time. G‑d knows that it is a struggle and He is there to help us with it. When our parenting challenges are over, there will be other challenges that will provoke us. But by then, we can hope to have learned quite a bit about our own evil inclination and hopefully, we will have managed to outsmart it on many an occasion.

Parenting is a super-highway to spiritual growth, offering as it does, so many occasions to do battle with our darker impulses. Bad parenting days are all part of it. They are the ones that can prompt us to confront on inner demons, eradicate them and soar upward. Yes, we regret our bad days, but we can also recognize them as our teachers. They show us where our weaknesses are still lurking inside. They give us the opportunity to correct our flaws and move forward. Used properly (in a process of self-examination, prayer and correction), they help us not only become better parents, but better people as well.

So, thank you, Bad Parenting Days.