No parent is perfect.
When we first cradle that newborn in our arms, we have high hopes and great expectations. We want to do everything just right, from swaddling to feeding, bonding to sleeping
Yet it’s not long until we make our first mistake. What we wanted to do so perfectly doesn’t quite work out as we had imagined it would.
How do I know this? Because that was – and is – me.
When it comes to the five mistakes listed below, I’ve made very single one of them. I’m judging no one here – perhaps you’ve only committed one on the list!
But this post isn’t about making us feel badly about ourselves. Rather, when we recognize that we’ve made a mistake, we can correct it. And the best news about making mistakes is that God’s grace is sufficient. Whether it’s for us and our guilt over the mistakes we’ve made, or for our children and how they can turn out so well in spite of us, God’s grace is key to this parenting journey.
So let’s take a minute to see what we might have done – or still be doing – wrong.
1. Taking the short-term view instead of the long-term view. This most often happens to me when I react (or overreact) out of embarrassment. I correct my child because I’m afraid of what other people are thinking. I’m not necessarily even correcting for my child’s benefit, but because I think that’s what’s expected from the other parents or people around me. I’ve fallen into this trap many times and can even see how it could happen in parenting my teenagers. When all I’m thinking about is getting myself and my child out of the current situation, I’m not disciplining them out of love nor am I concerned about reaching their heart and changing their behavior for the future. I’ve heard it said that our goal shouldn’t be to raise a great child, but rather to raise a great adult. I have to make sure I’m not valuing outward performance over building character.
2. Protecting our children from the consequences of their actions. None of us want our children to have to suffer at any level, but sometimes living with the consequences of their actions is the best way for them to learn a lesson. Do I really need to drive all the way back to school to pick up that book so that my child can finish her homework and not get a bad grade? There may be times when extenuating circumstances dictate that, but there are also times when facing a teacher with work undone may be just what she needs to help her remember that book – and other important things – in the future.
3. Not asking for their forgiveness when we’ve sinned against our children. When our girls were small, I sadly remember several times when I lost my temper and was angry with them – sometimes just for childish behavior. I wish I could say it never happens anymore, but sadly it still does. Just as we sin against our spouse and friends by doing and/or saying things we shouldn’t, the same thing will happen with our children. What a great way to show them how relationships should work when we go to them and apologize. If we want them to know how to ask for and how to grant forgiveness, we should model it for them.
4. Doing too much for our children. Our children need to know how to take care of themselves. I know my tendency as a mom is to do too much for my girls. Especially when they’re little, it’s SO much easier to do it yourself – and so much less messy! Even now that mine are older, I still find myself taking care of tasks that they are capable of doing. Yet the more we teach them to do, the more their self-confidence grows. Having them work to earn money for things they want rather than just handing it to them is another valuable life principle, as is owning their own mistakes and handling how those mistakes are resolved. All of this is part of the growing-up process and will help them mature into capable adults.
5. Selfishness. When I don’t step up to the parenting plate and let disobedience pass by because I’m too tired to deal with it, I’m putting myself ahead of what’s in the best interest of my child. I sense my daughter needs to talk, but I’d rather get my dishes washed, so I don’t engage her. Selfishness can even reveal itself if I try to live the life I wanted through my child, pushing her to do things I wish I could have done when it’s really not something she’s interested in. Often we’re willing to make many “big” sacrifices for our children, but I find that I have to be careful in living unselfishly in the day-to-day situations.
I wish I’d only made five mistakes as a mom, but I’m afraid that’s not the case! How thankful I am for the grace of God, the forgiveness we can receive from our children, and the love that makes us want to keep on doing our best as parents, even when it’s hard.
So let’s make it your turn. Is there another parenting mistake that you think is pretty common?