By Sally Creed, LPC-S, RPT-S
Job 12:12 says: “Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?” (NIV)
As someone who has lived a long time, I can say that the above verse is so true. I have taken stock of my past and can honestly say that I was nowhere near as wise then as I am now. My memory may have been much better back in my younger days, but I know so much more now.
When I first started my counseling career back when I was single, I felt like every time a new client came in, I needed to read a book so I would know how to help them. But now, no matter what problem is brought into my office, I usually instinctively have a solution. Especially in matters regarding children. I’ve raised a daughter and a son—both live out of state and in two different time zones than mine. I didn’t do everything right and probably made more mistakes than I care to admit; however, we still have a great relationship and I am enjoying them as adults and “friends.”
One thing I do remember being a parent of young children is that since we all make mistakes, the focus shouldn’t be on the mistake, but on the lesson it teaches us. I always say that if you learned a valuable lesson from your mistakes, then it was worth it. Most people who learn from their mistakes usually don’t repeat them.
As a parent, you need to know that all children make mistakes. It’s part of growing up. If you know this and expect it to happen, you won’t blow your top when it does. Parenting is similar to coaching. When you coach a team and someone messes up, the best approach is to gently point out the mistake (if they don’t know it already), then encourage them to do better next time. Some coaches choose to scream at the offender, which doesn’t help them or the team. When a child is yelled at, it creates sort of a “fight or flight” response and they don’t think clearly. It is traumatic to them and can cause them to shut down.
Here’s some advice from a seasoned parent (and counselor):
- Say goodbye to your child’s past mistakes. This means that you aren’t allowed to remind your child about them. This affects their self-esteem and causes them to feel like a loser. I have children I work with who have developed test anxiety because they are afraid of disappointing their parents. When a child is anxious before taking a test, their performance will naturally be worse than if they are relaxed and confident.
- Be encouraging no matter how your child does. Remember that your child hates to disappoint you, so if they do something wrong, their first regret is upsetting you. Tread lightly when you learn of something they did wrong.
- Remember how it felt when you were younger and made mistakes. Be patient and understanding as you help guide your children to wiser decisions.
- Always look for the positive qualities in your child, then tell them how much you admire these qualities. Children rarely hear great things about them. It’s always fun to brag about your child while talking to a friend or family member on the phone when your child is within earshot. They love to hear you say great things about them.
- Seek guidance from an older and wiser person if you need help. Talk to parents who’ve been where you are and get advice from them. Or come talk to me. I’d love to help coach you as you raise your children to grow up to be your best friends someday.
As we enter this new year, take a moment to look back over the past year and let go of any disappointments you experienced and choose to focus on all the good things that happened. When you get to be my age, you’ll be glad you did.