The Right to Make Mistakes
Sometimes we have trouble deciding what our responsibility is in our children’s lives. Oh, we know the big things, life and limb, but we struggle with the daily decisions. Part of our trouble is that we all want to be such great parents that the resulting pressure clouds our otherwise clear thinking and restricts decisive action.
One helpful way of working is to first of all tell ourselves that we are in fact our children’s very best parents. The fact that we’re their only parents doesn’t count. After all, we’re the parents who are trying so hard not to make mistakes on our children, at least not the same mistakes our parents made on us. But what we need to become aware of is that by being willing to make mistakes and to accept our foibles we do actually cause ourselves to be better parents. Modeling perfection to children sets them up for predictable disappointment. We all know that children can’t be perfect and we don’t want them to feel that kind of stress from us. We want them to grow, and in growing we expect them to make mistakes. We know that these mistakes are opportunities for learning and hence are good for them. Of course we do not want the mistakes to be huge or clearly damaging to our children, but we do recognize the importance and value of little mistakes. So we just need to permit ourselves this same latitude, the right to make mistakes. When we’re not afraid of making mistakes, we can really grow in our parenting skills.
One action I see happening over and over again among all of us parents is fuzzy thinking regarding our child’s responsibilities and our responsibilities. Are we responsible for returning our child’s library book to school? Are we responsible for returning our child’s homework to school? Are we responsible for remembering to give our child her lunch box as she leaves the house or the car? Are we responsible for dressing our child? Are we responsible for selecting our child’s clothing each day? I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea. These and other similar questions are unending for each of us almost on a daily basis. What we decide to do should be based on what we want our child to learn. But too often our decision is made for convenience, or worse yet out of fear of not being those great parents we want to be, the ones our child deserves.
So take a little time to think ahead about these questions before being demanded by the circumstance to act on them.
Question #1. Are we responsible for returning our child’s library book to school?
Answer. Did we check it out? Did we bring it home? Did we have an assignment to read it?
Question #2. Are we responsible for returning our child’s homework to school?
Answer. Was the homework assigned to us? Did we do the homework? Did we bring it home?
Question #3. Are we responsible for remembering to give our child his lunch box as he leaves the house or the car?
Answer. Are we planning to eat his lunch at school?
Question #4. Are we responsible for dressing our child?
Answer. Can our child dress herself?
Question #5. Are we responsible for selecting our child’s clothing each day?
Answer. Can our child make that choice? Will our child be damaged in any way if she wears mismatching outfits? Will our child be hurt if she wears long-sleeved shirts in warm weather?As we face these unending dilemmas we need to ask ourselves, “What do we want our child to learn?” Do we want our child to learn that it’s not necessary to remember library books, homework, and/or lunches because we as the parents will remember that for them? Do we want our child to learn to be responsible for himself or do we want him to know that we will always take care of him because we know that s/he is incapable of taking care of himself?
Being a parent is challenging especially since most of us lack experience and training. But we are all up to the challenge. And by sharing our ideas we can all gain strength from each other. Besides, I already know you are your child’s best parents. I can tell from how hard you’re trying.
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Director/Elementary 1 Teacher