Learn from Your Parenting Mistakes
- Tuesday, December 13, 2005
No matter how hard you try, you can’t be a perfect parent. But there is a perfect parent – God – who will help you learn from your mistakes and give you and your children the grace to grow.
Here’s how you can learn from your parenting mistakes:
Expect to make mistakes. Give up trying to be perfect. Understand that everyone in our fallen world makes mistakes naturally. Expect that you’ll make plenty as you take on the challenging role of parenthood – and know that it’s okay to do so.
Recognize the value in mistakes. Realize that making mistakes is an important part of the learning process. Mistakes cause you to reflect on your thoughts and feelings about situations, motivate you to seek God’s help, point out specific areas on which you need to focus your attention, and more. Remember that God will use your mistakes to bring about good results in your life if you trust Him. Acknowledge that He can do anything – even more than you can ask or imagine according to His power at work in you.
Let your children see you admit your mistakes and ask God’s forgiveness. Don’t try to hide your mistakes from your children. Be honest with them. Show them what faith in action looks like by admitting when you’re wrong and praying for forgiveness and the grace to do better in the future.
Remember that your children ultimately belong to God. Understand that it’s God – not you or any other person – who is in control of your children’s future. Know that He can cause your children to turn out just fine, in spite of the mistakes you make while raising them.
Praise your children often. No matter what mistakes they make, let your children know that you love them unconditionally. Show them God’s grace in action by frequently encouraging them with words of blessing (communicating your acceptance and affirmation whenever an opportunity arises to do so). Don’t take especially obedient children for granted; let them know how much you appreciate them. If you’re struggling to praise difficult children, pray for wisdom, make every effort to catch them doing something good, concentrate on positive behaviors while trying to ignore some of the negative ones, picture a better future for them, and intercede in prayer for them. Clearly communicate in tangible ways to each of your children that they’re precious, God-given treasures to you.
Don’t be too serious. Think and pray about your expectations of both yourself and your children to make sure they’re realistic. Remember that God wants you to enjoy your children. Intentionally have as much fun with them as you can. Laugh together. Play games together. Don’t try to make your children grow up before their time. Celebrate each day you have with them.
Avoid preaching. Realize that children usually won’t pay attention to long lectures. Carefully choose the times in which you share your views and express your concerns. Make sure you speak in a calm and respectful tone of voice. Speak the truth with love and kindness.
Make time for your children. Realize that your children desperately need your time and attention as they grow up, and that your loving presence will often supersede mistakes you make. Don’t be too busy for them. Periodically evaluate your schedule and priorities and ask yourself questions such as: "Is the plan I’m following during this season of my life God-ordained or self-ordained?", "Am I putting my family first or am I preoccupied with my own agenda or career?", "Am I allowing others (school and daycare) to raise my children?", "Am I permitting my children to be too busy with their activities?", and "Have I consulted God before agreeing to do something or before accepting a position?". Ask for God’s guidance in prayer and listen to how He speaks to you about your wisely managing your time.
Don’t be afraid to discipline your children. Understand that, despite your mistakes, you’re in charge of your children because you’re the parent. Lead your children; don’t let them lead you. Go to God for the strength you need. Show your children that you’re submitting to God’s authority yourself while you expect them to submit to your authority.
Don’t take shortcuts when you discipline; make time to follow through as you try to shape your children’s behavior and develop their character. Make a concerted effort to train them well. Establish clear consequences for misbehavior and consistently enforce them. Don’t automatically discipline each of your children in the same way. Instead, carefully study each one’s personality to determine which methods would work best for him or her. Discipline in love, not anger. Whenever you discipline your children, let them know that it’s for their benefit and that you love them too much to let them get away with wrong behaviors.
Hug them afterward, assure them of your love for them, and pray with them to ask God to help them with the particular problem. Choose your battles. Let small issues that don’t ultimately matter slide; focus on what has eternal value.
Give your children security. Give your children the security of knowing that you genuinely and consistently love them and your spouse (if you’re married). Let them know that, no matter what mistakes you might make, you’ll do your best to be there for them and provide security in their home. Ask God to fill you with His love so you can love your children and spouse. Trust Him to empower you to choose to act in love toward them, regardless of changing circumstances or feelings.
Help your children connect to God. Make your children’s spiritual development a priority. Encourage them to turn to God for all their needs, knowing that He alone never makes mistakes and will never disappoint them. Take your children to church and Sunday School or a weekly Bible study regularly. Teach your children to read and study the Bible. Set boundaries to help them learn to say "no" to selfish choices and "yes" to God. Pray with them often, and make time regularly for family worship. Use everyday experiences to point out God at work and build character in your children. Do your best to trust God in your own life so you can model a faithful life for your children.
Pray for your children constantly. Realize that your prayers contain great power to benefit your children, despite your mistakes. Pray for God to help your children throughout each stage of their lives. Let your children know that you’re praying for them. Ask them to give you prayer requests regularly. Point out answered prayers to them and celebrate together.
Let go and let God have His way in your children’s lives. Ask God to give you the faith you need to commit your children fully to Him. Step back and invite God to work in their lives as He desires, without your interference. Be willing to give up your own plans for them if those plans conflict with God’s plans for their lives. When you pray for your children, make requests instead of demands. Remember that God, who created your children, wants the very best for them. Trust Him to fulfill His good purposes for their lives.
Adapted from Five Things I Did Right and Five Things I Did Wrong in Raising Our Children, copyright 2004 by Sarah O. Maddox. Published by Broadman & Holman Publishers, Nashville, Tn., www.BroadmanHolman.com.
Sarah O. Maddox is a popular conference speaker and women’s ministry consultant. She and her husband Roland currently reside in Memphis, Tn., where she is a Bible teacher, writer, and homemaker. She is the mother of two and the grandmother of five.
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