What to do When You Mess Up in Front of Your Kid
Photo by Ryan Franco on Unsplash
The other day I flopped down on the couch to relax and immediately jumped back up in pain. I had landed on one of those little plastic building blocks, I know you know the ones I mean, and it had scratched me with its evil pointy corner. I yelled out “ow!” and my son kindly asked me what happened and if I was okay. I responded in a tone as sharp as that block “I got a scratch because you didn’t put your toys away!”. My son proceeded to hang his head and make sad sounds for the next several minutes while I felt full of regret. I knew this was a mess up.
So You Made a Mistake
Loving, well meaning parents can still make mistakes and when this happens it does not change the fact that you love your child and she loves you. I know all too well the guilt, shame, regret, embarrassment, and whatever else that can arise when you don’t show up as your best self.
Will My Mistakes Mess Up My Kid
I want you to try something. Close your eyes and recall the last time you and your child shared a loving moment. That is who you truly are. A loving thoughtful parent. In the moment of a mistake you may start thinking the opposite, that you are a bad parent. This is not true. The truth of messing up is that you’re human, you have your own big feelings that you are dealing with, and you are trying your best.
How to Turn a Mess Up into an Opportunity
Messing up in front of your child does not negate all of the loving moments you’ve shared. Parents sometimes yell, or break a promise, or lose patience. None of this means you love your child less. In fact, you can turn these mistakes into opportunities to connect with your child and show her how to cope with failing and how to put things right. You are your child’s best teacher. Teaching her that owning up to mistakes is the thing to do will serve her more than showing her how to regret, stuff down feelings, or ignore errors.
The 3 Step Strategy to Fix Mistakes
- Rewind: As soon as you realize you’ve messed up, pause and rewind. Tell your child what you noticed- “Hang on, I just spoke in my not nice voice.”
- Repair: Offer a simple straightforward apology- “I’m sorry.”
- Recover: Give yourself a do over- “I’m going to try that again.”
For our children to be secure and capable humans they need to see that we all make mistakes and that we can repair and recover from them. Admitting your mistakes to your child and showing her your vulnerabilities teaches her that messing up is not a weakness and that putting things right is what superheroes do (you are most definitely her superhero).