As parents, we all love our children. We strive to provide the absolute best for them. Very often we want them to have more, better, or different childhood experiences different than our own. We want to think that our child is the most wonderful little person there is. To us, our children’s jokes are the greatest, their mannerisms are cute, and their style is a perfect representation of their developing personality. We invest our time, energy, and finances into creating and encouraging what we think is the most perfect little human.
Then reality strikes.
We want to protect our children. We create opportunities for positive growth and safe emotional, physical, and mental development. As parents of infants, we select the safest gear and we childproof the home to reduce the risk of harm. So it is only natural that we want to continue to protect our children from trouble and hurt as they get older. Sometimes the best efforts intended to protect our children build barriers to our own perception. We are not willing to see or often do not see what we need to see.
Our efforts to mold happy, healthy, and kind children may limit us from seeing what is really going on. Do we as parents really believe that our child can do no wrong? Do we really believe that our children will not make mistakes or bad decisions? As parents, are we are so focused on the safety measures we set for our children that we don’t take the time to notice everything else?
We are all capable of doing wrong. We all make mistakes. Even as adults, we will continue to make mistakes. Allowing our children to make mistakes is where growth and maturity are developed. Mistakes are learning opportunities. When we as parents do not acknowledge our children’s mistakes or bad decisions, we give our children permission to blame others, and we encourage negative behaviors.
My son recently made a poor decision. As a parent, I wanted to protect him from the consequences of his actions. I wanted to give a 100 excuses or possible reasons why the behavior would occur. I wanted to get upset at someone else and believe that my child was innocent. Sometimes in life what we want is not what we need. In that moment I needed to parent my child. I needed to recognize this as a learning opportunity. I needed to pause, evaluate, listen, and problem-solve because, in that moment, my son was watching. His eyes were locked on me as I was being informed of his behavior. How I chose to respond was a crucial learning moment. It was a moment that he could learn he does no wrong, that consequences will not occur for his choices, or it was a moment he could learn empathy, humility, and grow.
Unfortunately, many parents rush to their child’s defense. In doing so, they do not see the complete picture. We become so quick to react that we forget how to stop and listen.
When we as parents are unwilling to recognize the role our own children may play in troubling situations, we are essentially raising the type of child we never wanted them to be. We are creating the monster we try to protect them from.
When children have permission to behave badly, they will. When children learn there are no consequences for their choices, they will make choices with no risk of consequence. It is our job as parents to teach our children right from wrong, how to problem-solve, and appropriate social skills. What characteristics are we instilling in children if we do not teach? What type of person will a child grow up to be if we fail at this?
Our effort to raise wonderful, fun, kind and loving people has an increased likelihood of success if we let children make mistakes. When we take the time to discuss bad decisions made and create learning opportunities, we teach them about being a good person.
We need to accept that our child is no better than another child. Like any other person, our children are capable of making mistakes, and they will make bad decisions. Even “good” kids will do “bad” things sometimes, and “bad” kids will do “good” things sometimes. We need to be more willing to assume that our child can and probably did do wrong, and that our child did make a mistake. It takes effort, patience, and awareness., Doing the right thing is not always the easiest thing.
When we pause and think of the type of person we are raising our child to become, we need to evaluate the person we are in this moment. How we react to our children’s mistakes or bad decisions influences their own responses and perceptions. We need to increase our own awareness of the messages we send to our children. When we show our children unconditional love when they do wrong, we create healing, we empower the child’s self-esteem, and we grow together.
Rachel Velishek is a licensed professional clinical counselor with Fisher-Titus Behavioral Health, Fisher-Titus Medical Park 2, Suite C, 282 Benedict Ave., Norwalk. Her office can be reached at 419-668-0311. For more information on Fisher-Titus Behavioral Health, visit fishertitus.org/behavioral-health.