Most parents have moments of uncertainty, even fear, about sharing their mistakes with their children. Those are the moments you second-guess your ability, even your right, to take a stand with your kids when you ask them to do something differently than how you did it. For me, it happened when I talked to my teens about drinking. Due to alcohol issues in my family history and my own overindulgent days in college, it was uncomfortable to take a stand with them on the subject. But I realized that because I wanted better for them, I had to share my poor choices and the consequences I suffered.
It’s tempting to soften our expectations for our kids when we’ve made our own bad choices. But we shouldn’t let our bad choices and the fear of looking like a hypocrite stall or stop us as parents. So, dads, fear not. Have courage. At the appropriate age, place, and time, you should share with your children so they can learn from your mistakes. Here are 5 reasons why you should not be afraid to share your mistakes with your children.
1. History is a good teacher.
Our bad choices in the past do not disqualify us from disagreeing with and opposing those choices now. The mistakes we made in the past are history and history is a good teacher. While it can be uncomfortable, being transparent about the past actually can strengthen our arguments in the present. We’ve hopefully gained wisdom from our experiences and that wisdom needs to be passed on to our children.
2. Opposing your past doesn’t mean condemning yourself in the present.Opposing your past doesn’t mean condemning yourself in the present.
Sometimes, the fear of feeling judged or judging ourselves in the present for the past can be an obstacle. We need to overcome that. If we’re a child of God and have confessed it to Him, it’s been forgiven, and there is no more condemnation. So we should now feel the freedom to guide and train our kids in the way they should go in the present. Loving our kids well means speaking the truth into their lives.
3. Who better to say, “Don’t do this!” than someone who has lived with the consequences?
Our mistakes and bad judgment actually give us a lot to offer our kids because of our lessons learned. The natural rebuttal from our kids may be, “Well, just because you struggled with this doesn’t mean I will.” We can respond by sharing that they may be right. But also let them know that all of us are capable of making bad choices, including them. None of us are immune, and it’s dangerous to think we are. Encourage them to always be on guard.
4. Vulnerability and humility will enable our children to better identify with us.
Sharing our stories in a humble way with our children will make it easier for them to identify with us. And, when we connect with our kids, it’s much more likely that they’ll really listen to us. In being vulnerable, one concern a parent may have is that by sharing how we messed up, our kids may think they have a license or an excuse for doing the same dumb thing. That’s not a reason for silence. The stakes are sometimes too high. We must let our children know we are sharing our mistakes, and the resulting consequences and pain (maybe pain that we still carry), because we love our children so much and do not want them to go through the same thing. We want something so much better for our kids.
5. Use your mistakes to provide for a better future for your children.
We shouldn’t assume that our kids have to learn the hard way by making their own mistakes. Will they make mistakes? Yes. Do we want them to learn from mistakes? Yes. But avoiding them in the first place is even better. And so, we should not be shy about making our case to them. We must be bold.
Let’s not give in to fear. We want better for our kids. We want them to make better choices, live better lives, and honor God with their choices.
Sound off: What doubts or fears do you have about sharing your mistakes with your children?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you do in order to make a wise decision?”