by Melissa Jeffcott

How to move on when you get it wrong

I recently did something that I am not proud of: I lost my temper at my teenage son. Big time.

I screamed at him when he wouldn’t do what was asked of him. I followed him upstairs continuing to yell at him as I sent him to his room. Inexplicably, I even kept it up as he complied with me and went to his bed in a flurry of tears.

It is not easy for me to sit and write these words. Acknowledging my uncontrolled anger makes my stomach sick and tears spring to my eyes.

It doesn’t really matter what it was about. Like most teens, my son is good at pushing my buttons and often views the world as revolving around him.

But I am the grown up. I am the mother. I know better. I know yelling doesn’t work. I know that all I proved to my son on that fateful afternoon was that I can yell louder than him and make him cry.

Maybe you have been here too. Maybe you too have walked away from an altercation with your son with your heart hammering in your chest, tears streaming down your face, and thought to yourself, ‘I am a terrible mother, this is so hard, I have no idea what the hell I am doing. Why did I just do that?’

So how do you move on when you get it wrong?

  1. Space

My son needed space from me, not more words, and I certainly needed space from him. We both needed time to calm down and process what had happened before we talked about it. I also needed to have a good cry in private, make a cup of tea, and quietly reflect on my own behaviour.

  1. Acknowledgment

I acknowledged to myself that I make mistakes. I am an emotional person. I can be hot headed. I am less tolerant when I am tired. I am less tolerant when there has been lots of bickering going on in my household. I know these things about myself. I am not perfect. I am only human.

  1. Perspective

But you know what I didn’t do? I didn’t beat myself up. Well, maybe I did a tiny bit, but then I quickly moved on. Does one parenting fail negate all the times I am a good mother? Of course not. Yet this is often what we focus on: the one bad story, instead of the myriad of good experiences we have with our children. We are so quick to point out our own flaws and fixate on them, instead of congratulating ourselves for doing a damn good job nine times out of ten.

  1. Forgiveness, love and a letter

After I wiped my eyes, drank my tea, and took a few deep cleansing breaths, I treated myself like I would my best friend in the same situation. I forgave myself. I thought of some strategies for how to better deal with frustrating teenage situations. I gave myself love. I hugged my other kids, and told them how much I love them. I explained that mum had made a mistake, but like any mistake, you learn from it and you move on.

And to my teenage son? I wrote him a heartfelt letter, and left it on his nightstand to read when he woke up. I acknowledged what had happened, apologised for it, and emphasised that we are both always learning, and when we get it wrong, we forgive each other and come back to our core truth: that we love each other, and no matter what happens in his life, I will always have his back.

How did he respond? No words, just a lanky body that woke me up early the next morning by slipping into bed next to me, wrapping his long arms around me and burying his head in my neck. I know I am a good mum doing the best I can, and the proof was lying right next to me squeezing me tight.

Brought to you by Brighton Grammar School

Melissa Jeffcott is a mother of three, a certified life coach, writer and workshop facilitator at This article is about


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