One time a relative of mine was in a fight with her husband and it was questionable whether or not he would come to the event we were all scheduled to attend. As I saw her car pulling up, I walked over and attempted to console her by saying, “So the bum decided not to come, huh?” At that moment, her husband leaned forward from the backseat and said, “No. The bum is right here.” Mortified, I apologized profusely to him. He was angry at me for quite some time after that because he thought I meant he was lazy.
I later shared this incident with my kids so they could see how Mom had messed up and how I felt about it and how my careless words had created a mess of hurt for this man and my relationship with him. It was an opportunity to teach my kids the importance of not putting someone down for the sake of making someone else feel better.
Instead of perpetuating weakness in your children, not hiding your weakness actually gives them strength and confidence to grow. Here are some ways kids benefit from seeing their parents’ weaknesses:
1. It teaches them how to navigate their own shortcomings.
Children learn by example, and they will learn many valuable tools as they watch how you handle the challenges you face when you are confronted by your own flaws. How you overcome the consequences and the steps you put into place to change yourself are powerful lessons they would never learn any other way.
2. It shows them vulnerability isn’t scary.
The humility they observe in you as you make amends for things you’ve done wrong teaches your children that it’s okay to make mistakes and how to make it right. When you apologize to people in front of them it models how to clean up emotional messes in relationships. And when you humbly apologize to your kids for behaviors in you that have hurt them it not only heals the rift between you and them but it also teaches them what healthy relationships look like.
3. It creates an environment of safety for them to come to you when they need to clean up the consequences of their own shortcomings.
Having your children come to you voluntarily when their failings have caused problems is a dream come true for a parent. Instead of having to lecture them and hoping they’re taking it in they are coming to you openly inviting your advice. You then know they are taking it in and applying your advice because they have asked for it.
4. It shows them that perfection is an impossible attainment.
No matter how hard we try, no one is perfect. The frustration of trying to accomplish perfection is especially difficult for children. Academia and peers put a lot of pressure on kids to be perfect in order to succeed. When you model grace and humility with your own imperfections, they can relax and know that they don’t have to be perfect because even their role models aren’t perfect.
5. It teaches them that life is a process of growth and learning.
As you let them see you grow and improve in your shortcomings, they learn that life is always presenting opportunities to become better and to overcome. They learn the specific methods they see you implement to bring change. Whether that be trackable plans, greater accountability, taking classes, or applying strategies for change, they are picking up skills they can apply in their own lives.
What mistakes have you made that could be great lessons for your children?