To err is human. Everybody makes mistakes. So why should we think that parents are the exception to the rule? Parents are the first and most influential role models for children. If parents are not allowed to make mistakes in front of their children, then what message does that send? You must be perfect as a parent? You must be perfect as an adult? You must be perfect in this house? You don’t want children to have unreasonable expectations for being a parent, an adult, or for being a member of the household.
Parents are not magical perfect beings. We are actually flawed average humans like everyone else. You don’t want to wait too long for the inevitable realization to hit them, because the time will most certainly come no matter how hard you might try to hide it. They usually begin to realize this during the stage when children begin challenging parents, adolescence. With all the other challenges during those exciting years, it’s best your children learn the hard truth before their hormones start interfering with their perspectives.
Mistakes are bound to occur. Your children will eventually witness your faux paus here and there and that is not only okay, but it is great. It allows you the opportunity to show your children the healthy and responsible way to recover from making mistakes. Fall from grace with style and class. Here are the three absolute musts for when your superhero cape falls off.
1. Acknowledge your mistake, especially when it directly affects your child.
In the world of parenthood, there is an array of perspectives and foresight required to get through any given day. The last thing we want is the domino effect of forgetting something as simple as the wipes when running errands for more than 10 minutes. Something somewhere somehow is bound to get spilled, soiled, or sticky. Wipes are always a necessity, and because of this fact, the package of wipes runs out quickly. You already know the one time you forget to replenish the stash is the outing that the biggest mess will occur and in the most inconvenient of times and places. A little mom spit will have to suffice, and nobody wants to revert back to the 1960’s of mom licking her thumb and rubbing it on a child’s cheek. These days, it’s humiliating, even for mom because any witness will know she forgot the wipes.
In such frazzled embarrassment, you may be inclined to immediately begin reciting a list of excuses which can easily sound like placing blame on the children. Excuses such as, “well if you got in the car the first time like I asked instead of making me repeat myself over and over we wouldn’t have been late and I wouldn’t have been rushing out the door and forgotten the wipes!” Or something to that effect. We know how it goes. We’ve all been there. Instead, acknowledge your mistake. “Oh no, mommy forgot the wipes!”
2. Apologize for your mistake.
Most people are rather forgiving when someone makes a mistake that directly affects them if they receive an immediate apology. Of course, we are talking about minor mishaps. Have you ever beeped at someone who just cut you off while driving? A simple apologetic wave of the hand from the car now in front usually makes us forget about the slight transgression without another moment lost. Or when a grocery cart is left unattended in the middle of the aisle while the shopper grabs an item off the shelf, is also easily forgiven with a quick apology. The apology acknowledges your mistake to the person involved and makes it much easier for reasonable people to move on with life. Why? Because people are human, and we all make mistakes.
3. Agree on acceptable solutions.
In the instances previously mentioned, the agreed upon acceptable solutions were simple enough. The car was able to get in front of you and you let it go. The grocery shopper moved the shopping cart out of your way. Let’s address a more stressful situation with a typical parenting scenario.
You’ve already been cut off while driving. You stopped at the store for Tylenol for your little one who has a fever. And now you are off to the pediatrician for a COVID test. While at the store you agreed to a simple snack for your school aged child tagging along. In the car on the way to the doctor’s office you open the snack and twist off the lid of the drink for your non ill child. Upon passing the drink back, you thought he grabbed the drink, but he only grabbed the snack and you let go. The drink spilled all over the car and your child and, guess what, you have no wipes!
You’re already stressed out because the baby is sick and cranky, you’re on edge after navigating traffic with the worst drivers possible and made it through the store with inconsiderate shoppers and long lines at the register. Your typical response may be to snap. “Why didn’t you grab it?” or “Why didn’t you say you didn’t have it?” Lucky for you, mistakes are teachable moments. You both now have an opportunity to learn. You can learn to ask your child if they have it before letting go, and your child can learn how to recover from a mistake with grace.
These steps may be easier said than done in high stress situations, but remember, practice makes perfect. Follow these three easy steps with the smallest of mistakes so that when a big ‘oopsy’ happens, you are well versed in how to respond with grace.