Writer and philosopher, Elbert Hubbard once wrote, “the greatest mistake a man can ever make is to be afraid of making one.” You may not think this extends to parenting, but let me show you why it does.
Children don’t come with a manual or instructional ‘how to’ guide on raising them. And if they did, it would never be comprehensive enough. After all, how could it ever reflect the diversity of every family or child? Even raising siblings often demands a completely different approach. We don’t live through a crystal ball; we are designed to live life as it comes. That makes parenting fun, exciting, rewarding and the best of all mistakes are inevitable.
The magic of mistakes
Parenting and life are about embracing the unknown, being curious, and sometimes thinking on your feet when new situations are thrown your way. It is through these new experiences that we learn how to parent. We might make parenting mistakes, we may sometimes fail, and we may get it right. Either way, we are learning. So, we have to know how to embrace the wrong along with the right.
Take Walt Disney for example. Imagine if he had stopped creating in his moments of failure. That would mean the world would have missed out on Mickey and Minnie, Donald and Daisy, Goofy and Pluto. The very nature of the entertainment landscape could have been completely different. It is through his experience of right and wrong moments that the magic took shape.
Parenting is like that. Sure, it is challenging, but it is also enriching and gratifying. Just as Walt Disney was rewarded by seeing people enjoy the magic he created, as parents, we are rewarded by seeing our young people grow into themselves and take on the world.
Let’s delve a little further into the importance of mistakes.
Why mistakes are critical for effective parenting
Perfection is impossible
It’s easy to put pressure on ourselves to be the perfect parents, but this is unattainable. Parenting is not a test where we pass or fail, and frankly, there is no such thing as perfect parenting. If we hold ourselves to this standard, we will always fall short and feel like failures every time, and this is not a good way to lead by example. We need to normalise that it is not about perfection but the journey of learning along the way.
Mistakes help us grow
If we never make a mistake, we may never evolve as people. That makes it essential to learn from them. Maybe we make a bad call, but by acknowledging it we can ensure it doesn’t happen again. It also allows us to start a conversation with our kids about what we can do differently to support them to be their best selves. It’s never about the mistakes themselves; it’s about how we respond to them and what action we take to grow as a person.
We are our children’s teacher
You wouldn’t want your child to berate themselves for a mistake, or never acknowledge that they’ve made one. When parents acknowledge and take ownership of their mistakes, they set a powerful example for their children, helping them learn valuable lessons about accountability. It also teaches them what resilience looks like in a tangible sense. After all, if we don’t make a mistake or acknowledge them when we do, how can we teach our young people what to do when they make a mistake? How will our children learn to be emotionally resilient in the face of missteps?
Mistakes improve our relationships
In the event of a bad decision or misstep, we have the chance to stop, take a breath and empathise with our children. Often, we are angry, sad and frustrated that we could have acted differently. However, when we connect through our emotions of our children as well as our own, this is the perfect time to have a conversation. It can help children understand you and themselves better, encouraging the sharing of empathy and vulnerability. You can walk away with a new and deeper understanding of each that can prevent similar situations moving forward.
Mistakes are teachable moments
The process of teaching through mistakes is:
- Identifying that a mistake or an error in judgement has taken place.
- Understanding why the mistake has occurred.
- Acknowledging that we can act differently.
- Connect with the emotion leading from the mistake and give ourselves grace.
- Make the right apologies (this is essential for children’s emotional growth, resilience and social skills).
- Explain why this was a mistake.
- Show vulnerability to your children so they can do the same.
- Interpret the mistake as a gift that taught you or your child a lesson, or forged a deeper connection.
Learn more about not-perfect parenting from The Resilience Tutor
In parenting, you must take pride in the effort you put in while celebrating successes and, of course, accepting mistakes. Remember that these do not define your parenting ability and that you are on a never-ending journey of learning, making mistakes, and adjusting your approach to suit the needs of your child. When we come from a place of vulnerability, our children are empowered to learn from us and become happy, healthy, emotionally resilient and successful children. Our family resilience tutoring can help you better understand how to put this into practice.
My name is LK Tommi – I’m an educator working in the education and psychology field, and the author of a resilience-based book and journal series supporting children and teenagers to better understand their emotions, thinking, energy, and behaviour, and how it all connects with their everyday life experiences.
The people that know me well will tell you how much I love to chat.
Please connect with me at Facebook and Instagram: The Resilience Tutor