Stance: Studies on the Family

Brigham Young University Student Journal

Parenting Tip #7: Admit When You Are Wrong

No one wants to admit being wrong, and certainly no parent wants to remember the times when his or her parenting was less than stellar.  As parents we try hard to make good choices, but unfortunately,  there comes a day when you get it wrong.   What then?

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Then it’s time to man up and fess up!

Over the years, I’ve had many moments when I failed as a parent.   I have lost my temper, accused the wrong child of misdeeds, and even made up silly rules that didn’t make any sense.   Somehow my kids survived and grew up to be productive citizens.

The truth is, we all make mistakes.   It’s not like any of us have all the training we need to be perfect parents.  Luckily, you don’t have to be perfect to be a great parent.  You just have to be honest and sincere and keep trying.  

So what should a parent do when he or she blows it?   I believe that the best choice is to own up to the mistake.   There are many positive outcomes of admitting your parenting mistakes.   I’d like to focus on four:

  1. When parents graciously admit mistakes, they teach their children how to behave with civility.  Everyone needs to learn how to say “I’m sorry,” and parents’ mistakes are the perfect opportunity to teach children how to do so willingly and in a timely manner.
  2. When parents admit their mistakes, children learn to trust them.   Children eventually come to the realization that their parents aren’t as perfect as they once thought.  As children get to this stage, seeing their parents admit to falling short helps kids to recognize that their parents are honest, which leads to trust.
  3. When parents admit mistakes, children learn that everyone makes mistakes and that it’s not the end of the world.
  4. When parents admit mistakes, they become accountable for their actions.   This encourages them to evaluate those actions and enables them to make changes for the better.

Richard G. Scott talked about admitting our mistakes:   

“Admit mistakes when you make them—for we all do. Admitting your mistakes builds character and also respect. Accept full responsibility for your actions.”  

When we realize that we need to admit a mistake, there are some rules to remember.

  1. Look your child in the eye.  If the child is small, get down on their eye level to talk to them.
  2. Don’t rationalize.  Telling your kid you messed up, followed by justifying your behavior, doesn’t really send the right message.  
  3. Make amends if possible.  
  4. Be grateful there is such a thing as repentance, and be sure to allow your child the same forgiveness for his or her mistakes that you hope they allow you.
  5. Learn from the mistake.   Try to recognize why you erred and look for strategies that will help you do better next time (count to ten before reacting; ask what happened before jumping to conclusions; refrain from assuming).

No matter how hard you try, you will make parenting mistakes. It goes with the territory.

Written by Phyllis Rosen 

1 Comment

  1. Admitting you don’t know everything helps them understand they can make mistakes and it is okay. Wonderful advice for connecting with older children.

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