Feb 212014 11 Responses

What a Child’s Mistake Reveals About a Parent

It feels like a punch in the gut:

  • lying to a teacher
  • cheating on a test
  • a positive drug test
  • an arrest
  • expulsion from school

When a child makes a significant mistake, it can crush a parent. We feel like failures. We write the story that good parents don’t have children that make bad decisions. We know better, but we don’t feel better. (See: How to Parent an Adult Child Who Is Making Bad Choices)

I’ve sat with hundreds of parents over the years and listened as they told the painful stories of their children’s mistakes. The parents hurt, not just for the child, but also for themselves. They ask:

  • Is this my fault?
  • What did I do wrong?
  • How could I have allowed this to happen?

Sometimes the child’s rebellion is related to the parent. While every parent makes mistakes, some parents dramatically fail to play their role which enables their child to make foolish decisions. Yet a majority of the time, it’s not the parent’s fault. While no parent is perfect, many parents do a great job and their children still make bad choices. (See: 3 Things to Do When Parenting Goes Wrong)

A child’s mistakes doesn’t always reveal bad parenting. As a matter of fact, it rarely does so with the people I talk to—those who are trying to be good parents, who are highly involved, seeking outside counsel, and attempting to learn. (See Becca Whitson’s post “How My Failures As a Mom Benefit My Kids”)

Yet the mistakes do reveal something about the parents.

It reveals the presence of parental pride.

The crushing nature of a child’s mistake to our parental ego reveals that we are taking great pride when our children are successful. When we blame ourselves for their failures, it reveals that we often are taking credit for their successes.

While it’s natural and needed for us to take pride in our children, parents must be careful not to take pride from our children. Their success does not reflect our character. We should root for them, cheer for them, and take great joy when they succeed. We should be happy for them. But we should not feel better about ourselves or morally superior to others when our kids experience success. Their success belongs to them, not us. Often it happens in spite of us, not because of us.

When you put the honor roll bumper sticker on your car, is that for them or for you?

Did your son sign up for the team for himself or for you?

Does the report card show her progress or your identity?

Does his playing time reveal his ability or your dreams?

Are you proud of your child’s success or are you proud you have a successful child?

It’s a fine line for parents and one which every parent crosses at some point. We must continually examine our hearts and our motives to determine if we are being a good parent or a prideful person. (See: Too Involved, Not Involved Enough)

Every child will make a mistake. Every child will probably make a major mistake. When they do, it is good for us to reflect on who we are and how we parent. We should not, however, assume their failure is because of our failure.

As heartbreaking as it is, when our children suffer, their mistakes can reveal to us our hidden pride. Far more often, I need to repent of my pride than repent of my bad parenting.

11 Responses to What a Child’s Mistake Reveals About a Parent
  1. […] 1. Parenting for the parent’s sake. The first perspective is the most selfish. It’s pare... kevinathompson.com/which-parent
  2. […] On occasion, I want them to lose. (See: What a Child’s Mistake Reveals About a Parent) […... kevinathompson.com/want-child-lose
  3. […] What a Child’s Mistake Reveals About a Parent […]... kevinathompson.com/mistake
  4. […] Clearly we should pay attention to our kids. Only bad parents ignore their children. Yet we can be e... kevinathompson.com/the-first-step-to-effective-parenting

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