As a psychotherapist who works with children and teenagers, I often hear parents who are worried about making a mistake as a parent. They are afraid that if they make a mistake, this will have a terrible impact on their teenager. There is really no need to worry as much as many parents do. No one is perfect, therefore most parents will make a mistake as a parent at some point during their child’s life. I have written other articles pointing out that when teenagers make a mistake that it can be a learning experience. The same thing is true for parents. However, when a parent makes a mistake they learn a lesson and they also teach their children how to handle mistakes and that they are normal. Therefore, when a parent makes a mistake, both the parent and child learn a lesson.
I recently read a blog by Dr. Macheo Payne. The blog focused on the fact that parents do make mistakes. It also points out how when a parent makes a mistake both the parent and child learn a lesson. His blog focused on fathers making mistakes. This is an important point. When fathers make a mistake and serve as role models to their sons that mistakes are normal, it helps to eliminate the old misguided stereotype about fathers and men that most males in our society learned as the grew up. However, his points apply to both fathers and mothers. Since I hear many parents, in my office, who worry about making a mistake as a parent, I have included his comments below. Hopefully, this will help parents look at parenting mistakes in a new light.
Dr. Payne wrote the following about parenting mistakes:
I’ve done hundreds of trainings over the past 20 years on many different topics, but never the topic of a Fathers’ role in the social emotional development of children. I was intrigued and felt qualified, not because of 10 years experience in youth mental health & behavioral health, nor because I teach child development at the masters level, but I felt qualified because of my two sons and what they have taught me over the past 14 years.
As a father, I felt more qualified than as a professional ‘expert’ because of the vulnerability involved in parenting. In preparation for the training, I outlined a series of discussions & activities that highlighted key research (attachment theories, culturally responsive theories & practices, ACES, Love languages, & other child development theories) but the majority of my preparation involved framing discussions of the failures of parenting.
I introduced the statement that as a father, I fail everyday. And I expect failures, big & small everyday. I gave examples that included yelling, skipping story time because I’m tired, or simply failing to meet any emotional need of my son because of outdated gender expectation (stop crying, etc.). Compassionate readers will quickly normalize such examples but it’s not about the examples as much as it is about the reality of parenting like any other endeavor being filled with success and failures everyday.
How does this make me a good father? It doesn’t, but by acknowledging it, it positions me to be more reflective of my failure, enabling me to make adjustments that I might be yelling at my children to do. If I recognize and acknowledge my failure and mistakes, to myself, and sometimes to my children, I model for them the ability to reflect when we have been wrong and adjust our response next time.
In this way, failure becomes the critical event that can facilitate being a better father. Like a good friend told me when my first son was born: When a child is born, two parents are born also. This resonated with me to be gentle with myself as a new Dad and fostering the kind of emotional patience that helps children develop emotionally in a way that failure is seen and experienced as a lesson not a loss.
It is very important for parents to remember they are not perfect and will make mistakes. In my office, I point out to parents how they handle these mistakes can be very beneficial to teenagers, as you just read above. Also a parent who tries to act like they do not make mistakes, give teenagers an unrealistic perspective about the world and parenting.
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers. He has over 20 years experience working with teenagers. To find out more about Dr. Rubino’s work with teenagers or his private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com