Even Heroes Make Mistakes

The odds are that you are your children’s hero. Even if they don’t say it and you don’t often feel it, in their eyes you’re a tried and true champ. But guess what: even the best of the best sometimes mess things up. Some of us take missteps pretty often. It’s okay — healthy in fact — for kids to know that. It can help them be more comfortable with their own “setbacks,” and gives you the opportunity to teach them life lessons about taking responsibility, dealing with consequences, and learning from experience.

Tips for . . .

  • parents with children ages birth to 5
    • Quickly, lightheartedly acknowledge small mistakes, “Oh no, that wasn’t what I meant to do.” Then move on.
    • Cut yourself some slack. Realize that every parent of a young child, no matter how many other kids are in the family, is learning about how best to parent that child.
    • parents with children 6 to 9
    • When you’ve really blundered, explain the situation to your child using age-appropriate words and concepts. Avoid overly dramatic apologies or explanations.
    • Start a “wisdom journal.” After you’ve had time to reflect on a mistake, think about what went wrong and how you could avoid a similar situation in the future.
    • parents with children 10 to 15
    • Know when to tell your children you’re sorry. Keep it honest and sincere, avoiding the temptation to soothe your own conscience by offering gifts or other indulgences unrelated to the situation.
    • Show them that you are brave enough to try again, even when you feel embarrassed.
    • parents with children 16 to 18
    • Connect with other trusted parents of teens. Make a point of talking about your mistakes and struggles. Laugh together, commiserate, or problem solve.
    • When appropriate, use humor to lighten the mood. When you and your teens can chuckle together about a mistake, you model resiliency and perseverance.
    • If possible, include your teens in discussions of how to deal with the consequences of mistakes you’ve made.
  • Parenting mistakes are indeed normal, but if you start to feel like your mistakes are endangering or harming your children, it’s time to ask for help. You can talk to a counselor, social worker, doctor, religious leader, or other professional. Sometimes asking for help is the most heroic decision a parent makes.

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