"Ball." "Go." "No." "Poop." Among toddlers, these are a few of the most commonly uttered words. My 20-month-old son, Austin, however, has one he loves more: "lollipop." Not only is he addicted to candy on a stick -- he knows how to get it. I've sunk into this sticky situation by using the pops to sucker Austin and his 3-year-old sister, Avery, into getting dressed, sitting still, and putting on their shoes. I know it's bad, and even though I've confided in my friends -- who have in turn confessed their own bad mommy moments -- I can neither stop nor feel okay about doing it.
But while venting can be empowering, it doesn't erase nagging shadows of failure. "The key is to use specific situations where you feel like you're falling short to gain insight that will help you to make a change for the better," says Janeen Hayward, a therapist and founder of Swellbeing.com, a parenting-resource service in New York City. In the interest of assisting moms, I offered up several real-life scenarios and posed them to top experts. Their advice will explain why you shouldn't stress -- and how to move past your parenting pitfalls.