No parent is perfect. So what happens when you realize you have made a mistake in your parenting? Do you shrug it off, since children are “so resilient”? Do you assume it is too late to correct those mistakes? Are you overwhelmed with the time and effort it may take to correct your error and pray that God grants mercy to you and your children?
As much as we might want to make excuses for our mistakes, our children only benefit if we correct them. Sometimes, it is a fairly simple adjustment. In other cases, it may be extremely time consuming and even painful to get back on track. Making hard changes may feel impossible, but it isn’t. Here’s what you need to know.
- Don’t procrastinate. Every day you continue to make the parenting error compounds the damage it may be doing to your children.
- Pray for God’s help. You will need God’s help to endure those particularly tough changes and His forgiveness for any parenting errors that were made because of your own pride or rebellion.
- Admit your mistake to your children. Many parents are afraid to admit mistakes, believing it will undermine the respect their children have for them. The reality is that they will respect you more for being honest and humble – even if they don’t like the change itself.
- Give your children a real apology. Your apology should be sincere and model repentance. State your mistake, say you are sorry and list the changes you are making so the mistake will be corrected. Also share any atonement you are making to them for your mistake. Finally ask for their forgiveness. You can’t force them to actually forgive you, but modeling repentance and forgiveness for them makes it more likely they will eventually forgive you.
- Explain the changes you are making in ways they can understand. Small children are concrete thinkers and need concrete details. It is important all of your children thoroughly understand what is changing and any new expectations of them.
- Explain why you are making changes in ways that your children can understand. Younger children may not understand any abstract principles behind the changes, but it is still good for them to hear them. Your older children and teens may be more compliant if they thoroughly understand why the change is ultimately for their benefit.
- Apologize for the tough transition period you are about to endure. It may take several weeks for everyone to adjust to any major changes. Empathizing with any annoyance or pain they may feel during the process can help make it a bit easier for everyone.
- Give grace during the transition period. Old habits are difficult to change. Reminders should be given, as well as grace, until you can be sure non-compliance is about rebellion rather than forgetfulness.
- Although it may be too late to correct your parenting mistakes for your adult children, it is never too late to apologize and encourage them to correct your mistakes with their own children. A sincere apology can go a long way towards repairing any relationship damage that may have occurred because of your mistakes. Alerting them to your mistakes can also help them break a potentially negative parenting cycle in your family.
Being humble enough to admit and correct your parenting mistakes isn’t always easy, but it is what your kids need from you….. and your future descendants as well.