Why Screwing up in Front of Your Kids Is the Best Life Lesson You Can Give

“The key, after screwing up in front of your kids, is how you recover, how you get things back on an even keel. How you model humility, own up to your weakness and put things right and how you deal with the tough times will have a huge influence on how your children go on to do this for themselves in the future…” ~ Andrew Hind

So who knows?

Maybe you aren’t giving your child enough attention, maybe they do need more exercise, they are too lazy, don’t eat enough greens and gorge on too much TV. Maybe you do nag incessantly and don’t tell them you love them enough …….??

As parents, it’s so easy to feel guilty.

We contort ourselves in knots with worry, lie awake at night stressing that we aren’t doing a good job. Are we setting them up for a happy life or just screwing them up?

But it’s pointless trying to be a perfect.

Screwing Up In Front of Your Kids

You know what?

You can cripple yourself trying to be so great that you become the most uptight, anal parent in the world and your kids will hate you for it. You need to forgive yourself.

Release yourself from the self-imposed straitjacket of guilt. Allow yourself to parent them from your gut, parent your way, in your style, with passion and authenticity.

Trust your instinct, be human, get it wrong but also, by doing so, get it so gloriously right that your kids will reap the benefit for the rest of their lives.

It’s all OK.

You are the very best parent for your child and the only one they want or need.

The thing is, that no matter how hard you try to avoid it, sooner or later your kids will realize that you, as a parent and a human being are flawed. So why try to keep up the pretense?

They will also realize (often and annoyingly after they have lost their teenage sense of invincibility) that they themselves are flawed as well. If they have seen their parents come to terms with and cope with their shortcomings then they have some hope of dealing with their own.

Why Screwing Up In Front of Your Kids is the Best Life Lesson You Can Give

To become well rounded and secure human beings our kids need to see us screw up and admit to our weaknesses. Most importantly they learn from how we cope with our failings and put things right when we do go wrong.

For example, it doesn’t matter (within reason) that your kids see you argue, as long as they also witness you making up. There’s nothing more frightening for a child than hearing shouting behind closed doors and feelings swept under the carpet.

We all learn about life and parenting from our parents, it’s the only model we have. The easy times are fun and fine but it’s the hard times that help us learn and grow.

If our kids see us mess up and also see how we go on to put things right and to learn from our mistakes then we are modeling a way of being that will enable them to go on and thrive.

As Winnicott said “you only need to be a good enough parent” and in fact, you’re doing your children far more favors by showing your vulnerability and humility as well as your strengths.

Sometimes it’s good for kids to be under-parented, to have to slightly fend for themselves and to build up reserves of self-reliance.

So the key, after screwing up in front of your kids, is how you recover. How you get things back on an even keel. How you model humility, own up to your weakness and put things right and how you deal with the tough times will have a huge influence on how your children go on to do this for themselves in the future. And how their children will do it too.

It’s frightening how dysfunction spreads like a cancer through generations of families. But also equally as heartening to see how powerful and liberating “good enough” parenting can be as well.

So, what do you need to do?

Say sorry and own up.

It’s really hard to apologize to your child but it’s also extremely powerful. Your initial instinct might be that it makes you look weak but it shows that you respect your child and value your relationship with them.

Explain in an age appropriate way

Try to explain why you did what you did. Why you made the mistake and what was going through your head. Explain that you can see that you got it wrong.

The risk here is that you blurt out all sorts of stuff in your confession that could potentially be unhelpful for your child. The key is to stick to the facts and to explain it in an age appropriate way. They probably don’t really need the whole sordid back story and just the simple facts will be adequate.

Ask them what they think and feel

Allowing them the space to think about what it was like for them is important too. You might be surprised at their viewpoint on it.

Work out what you will do differently

Verbalize a simple plan. Let them know that you’re working on sorting the issue out and that you are trying to deal with things in a different way.

Kids get it, they screw up too and need to know that it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Give yourself a break and let them see you in all your multi-faceted, brilliant but fallible glory.

Show them how to deal with the mess of life, lead with conviction and be open and vulnerable with them.

But most of all be kind to yourself as a parent, give yourself permission to be a bit rubbish sometimes. Know that, in order for your kids to make it in the world, you only really need to be good enough and not perfect. 

So what do you think? Is screwing up in front of your children a good life lesson? You can share your comment in the comment section below 🙂


Andrew Hind

Andrew Hind is a Dad to three teenage girls, photographer, and musician as well as a keen cyclist. He is also the blogger at roadcyclistsguide.com a blog about cycling, life and thriving. You can also connect on Facebook.

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