It happens to every parent. The details change, but the experience is the same. No matter how prepared you think you are. No matter how many children you have or how long you have been a parent. It’s inevitable. You are going to make parenting mistakes.
Sometimes they are relatively minor, like forgetting to put a bottle of water in their school lunch. Sometimes it’s taking the wrong person’s advice, like the time I listened to our daughter’s doctor and didn’t get her a flu shot (not a fun winter). Or maybe you are at the end of your rope and were harsh in your words or actions. Or you think you are doing what’s right, but the results are starting to emerge as less than stellar in the life of your child.
Parenting mistakes can destroy your relationship with your kids – or not. Often, it’s not the mistake that causes the damage to the relationship, but how it’s handled once discovered. You can recover and even correct many parenting mistakes if you do these three things as quickly as possible.
- Admit your mistake. Ever wonder about the Bible verse “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”? (Proverbs 16:18 NIV) Often our parenting mistakes are compounded because we are too proud to admit we have made mistakes and take responsibility for them. No matter how intelligent your kids are they need your relationship with God, wisdom, education and life experience to guide them. They will also often end up parenting like you parented them. If you make a mistake in how you are parenting them, you need to admit it for their sake and for your future descendants. You can’t correct something you refuse to admit was a mistake.
- Apologize, including restitution if necessary. Your kids won’t lose respect for you when you admit your mistakes. Instead they will eventually respect you more. The adults who have no respect for their parents often have parents who stubbornly insisted their mistakes weren’t mistakes at all. Remember a true apology is not a mumbled “I’m sorry.”, but rather includes several parts. You need to state clearly the mistake and that it was a poor choice on your part – no matter how well intentioned at the time. You need to explain that you have prayed about it and plan to never make that same mistake again. You need to ask for their forgiveness. If your mistake cost them something, you also need to try and restore their loss if at all possible – make it right if you can.
- Make needed corrections. After my flu shot disastrous parenting fail, you can bet my kid has gotten her flu shot every year since. In fact, she is responsible for getting her own flu shot now and I still remind her! Admitting your mistake and even apologizing to your child doesn’t do any good if you keep making the same mistake in the future. Yes, if your mistake has become a bad habit, it may be difficult to change. Ask God for His help. Get outside help if necessary. Ask your kid to remind you. Do the work to not repeat your mistakes over and over. Kids are generally very forgiving and resilient, but repeated parenting mistakes in the same area can eventually cause permanent damage – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Parenting mistakes are inevitable. The kids who recover from their parents’ mistakes are usually kids whose parents went through the steps above after any mistake. It requires humility, prayer, time and work, but it’s worth it. You aren’t just correcting parenting mistakes, you are also modeling to your kids what to do after sinning (with a few obvious differences!). It’s a vital Christian Life Skill they need to see acted out in your life.