Sometimes there are: No Bad Decisions
Today a friend mentioned she was struggling with what constitutes a “bad” decision for a parent to make. As a parent and mental health professional, this comment sparked my curiosity! Of course, there are obvious “bad” decisions a parent can make that may potentially put one’s child at mortal risk; but maybe we subconsciously focus on every parental decision we make as either “good” or “bad”. What about the proverbial “grey” areas of decision-making? For example, today I questioned if ordering macaroni and cheese for my daughter was a “bad” decision although she loves it, am I stripping her diet of robust nutrition hurting her in the long run? Although that decision is a first-world problem, it can nonetheless potentially be viewed as a “bad” parental decision.
I asked my friend why she may be preoccupied with thoughts about poor parental decision-making. She mentioned she is confronting major life decisions for herself and her three kids. She has had some wild and difficult events happen to her throughout her parenting journey, but she has always found a way to discover peace. She has maintained an incredibly close relationship with her children. I have only observed her make her kids a sole priority, so I was left perplexed by her perseveration of “bad” parental decisions.
In hearing about the choices, she is struggling to make, it dawned on me that the decisions she was weighing were neither good nor bad. As an outside observer, I realized that the paralysis in making decisions in certain areas stemmed from her desire to please everyone and mitigate all consequences. The problem is that no matter what decisions she makes, there are going to be consequences and sacrifices.
The irony in her situation is that she is an expert at doing the work and figuring things out. The reason her decisions end up being the right ones is because of how she handles herself with decorum, grace, love, and most importantly persistence to move forward and grow. She usually takes that extra step making the best out of adversity. Akin to most of our decisions, there have been definitive consequences to some of her decisions. She takes responsibility, does not place blame on others, is dedicated to making things right, and is willing to accept the sacrifices needed as a result of her decisions.
Not everyone wrestles this way with major life-changing decisions. Relatedly, we may not even realize when our emotions stand in the way of playing judge and juror with our decisions. Sometimes as we make decisions, we let our selfishness, our spite, our fear, or our ignorance get in the way. When making determinations based on feelings we not only make bad decisions, but we behave poorly as we navigate and cope with the decisions that we have made. We must process and let go of the fear and the spite. We must be honest and more aware of our selfish tendencies. We must get all of the information we can and take a look at all sides rather than just looking at what we think we know. Without doing this work we are more likely to blame others, stay stuck, and never find the motivation to do what needs to be done to find happiness and rightness.
You may ask what advice I gave my friend when she turned to me in confidence wondering what a bad decision as a parent is? My answer was simple; it is not the decision but rather the reasoning behind the verdict. Decisions based on intense emotions are almost always bad. Decisions focused on the happiness of our children can never truly be “bad” as the intention was “good”. So, challenge yourself to review the intentions behind your decisions and your willingness to do the work, and the ruling can be justly confirmed as bad or good.