Most of us live under the burden of trying to be perfect – at work, at home, in our relationships…everywhere. It is a heavy weight that can discourage and paralyze us, especially regarding our children, no matter how old they are.
We have a false belief that in order to have a positive impact in our children’s lives, we need to do everything perfectly, or pretty close! This is just not true. We can have an even bigger impact in our children’s lives when we goof up and apologize.It is in these moments that we show them how to live life as an imperfect person. Click To Tweet
They need to see us apologize when we hurt someone, make amends in our relationships, and be compassionate with ourselves when we fail. None of that can be taught by words, only experience.
As a therapist, I worked hard to stay in tune with my clients, and not make mistakes in how I responded to them in their most tender moments. Of course, try as I did, I still made mistakes, resulting in hurt feelings. I always felt bad about this, but it didn’t paralyze me. I knew that it was in these vulnerable moments I could be a source of healing.
What I discovered, was that most of my clients had never had anyone admit they misunderstood them or hurt them. Of course, this happened; it was unavoidable. They didn’t hear their parents openly acknowledge that, “I got that wrong, I let you down, I hurt you by what I said or did…and I’m so sorry.” Instead, their parents either didn’t notice, pretended it was no big deal, or blamed their child for their bad actions.
It was in these moments with my clients I was able to be a part of healing an old wound. I was able to be with them and acknowledge I made a mistake in how I responded, or misunderstood them. For most, that had never happened before.More emotional healing occurred in these moments, than if I had responded correctly initially. Click To Tweet
I share this to give you hope
How you handle the mistakes you make with your children is the gateway to a deeper and more meaningful relationship. This is how you equip your child to live in a judgmental world that doesn’t offer grace and understanding for mistakes. As we learn to embrace our imperfections, we will help our children do the same. Even when we respond poorly, we can go back later and talk about it. It is a wonderful way for both parents and children to learn together how to be compassionate with themselves. Here’s an example (of course, this doesn’t have to just apply to parent-child interactions):
Mom: I’m so stupid. I forgot to get the supplies you needed for your project. Ugh!
Child: It’s okay Mom (looking down, dejected) Later….
Mom: Honey, I wanted to talk to you. Do you remember what I said to myself when I realized I forgot to get the supplies for your project?
Child: Yeah, you said you were stupid and you were mad at yourself.
Mom: How did you feel when that happened?
Child: Bad, I didn’t like you saying that to yourself. I also felt bad, like I shouldn’t have asked you to get my stuff.
Mom: I’m so sorry honey. First, I want you to know it was good for you to ask me for what you needed. That showed what a good student you are. It is so great you figured out what you needed, and asked me to get them for you. You did nothing wrong, and I’m glad you asked me.
Second, I didn’t like how I talked to myself either. I prayed and asked God to help me figure out what happened, and why I was mean to myself. He helped me realize that several hard things happened that day at work, and I was distracted and just forgot. I know that could happen to anyone, and just means I’m human. I was angry at myself for forgetting, but mainly I felt bad I had disappointed you. I’m going to try to be kind to myself in the future when I make a mistake, instead of being mean to myself. I’m also going to set an alarm on my phone to help me remember important things, like picking up the supplies I promised you. What do you think?
Child: Thanks for telling me. I was sure somehow it was my fault. Anyone can forget, Mom. I do too. Maybe I’ll be nice to myself when I mess up too.
What jumped out at you regarding the interaction above? What is it like to know you don’t have to be perfect, and can go back and repair hurts with your loved one? My guess is you may feel encouraged, hopeful, confused, and also unsure how to do this.
The good news is that my long-awaited book, Give Your Kids a Break: Parenting with Compassion for You and Your Children will help you learn how to be compassionate with yourself, and teach your children to as well. I hope it will be a blessing to you, and those in your life.
I’d love to hear from you!
Please leave a comment in the box below. Also, please share this post on social media, or via e-mail. It’s good to know we don’t need to be perfect!