I was talking with a friend recently about marriage and how as husbands and wives, we need to be safe places for our spouses to fail. My friend made the connection to parenting, and that immediately seemed blog-worthy. Failure, after all, is the only path to success. If our kids are afraid to fail because of our parenting habits, we’ll be sorry down the road.
How do we make sure we are a safe place for our kids to fail?
When my 7 year old son pours too much milk in the cereal bowl, I have to remember that he is 7, not 14. And if the morning has already included changing a blowout diaper, missing the trash pickup, and realizing too late that there is not enough bread to make the kids lunches for school, suddenly, too much milk in the bowl can incur undue wrath. But what does that teach him? Am I building the confidence of this little pre-man or stripping it raw?
I don’t always point out their mistakes… anymore.
When my 9 year old daughter wipes off the kitchen table but she forgets to hang the rag back up on the peg, there was a time when I would have not thought twice about calling her back in to pick up the rag out of the sink and hang it up. Now, I’m much more likely to see the error, weigh the situation and decide what to do. I might just go kiss her on the head and say, “Thanks for wiping up the kitchen.” And I might add, “next time, would you hang the rag back up?” But I might not.
How, as parents, do we decide when to correct their errors and when to let them slide, acknowledging their inherent shortcomings as non-adults?
As their parents, it is also our job to correct their errors so they can grow and thrive. Over the years, I have grown more and more into the habit of “out-of-the-moment” parenting. This morning, my daughter was practicing her sight-reading on the piano, and I heard her fumbling through a song she usually plays well. When she was done, she moved on to the next song. Now, I’ve told her before that if she struggles through a familiar song, she should play it again, maybe a little slower, before moving on.
I was making the PBJs for their lunches, and in the moment, I decided not to go in there and correct her. I waited till she was brushing her hair and I went in and mentioned it to her – like giving her a tip for next time. Knowing my daughter, that was a much more effective communication strategy.
More often, though, we’ve got to parent in the moment, and that’s where the posture of our heart matters most. If we have decided ahead of time that we want to be a safe place for our kids to fail, more than we want them to always get things right, that will absolutely influence how we act. When I’m not so focused on them performing perfectly, I end up enjoying them more, and I’m sure they enjoy me more too. This is as tough an aspect of parenting as there is, because it is mentally expensive. But I believe it is worth the price.
How do you balance correction and encouragement? I’d love to learn from your stories…