My Great-Grandfather raised nine kids. Reflecting back on his years of parenting, he said, “When your kids are little, they step on your toes. When they get big, they step on your heart.”
If you’re a parent, there will be times when your kids let you down, hurt your feelings or even break your heart. There were certainly plenty of times we let our parents down along the way too! How we deal with those disappointments is one of the most critical decisions and defining moments of parenthood. Our longterm relationships with our kids will be directly shaped by how we react in our moments of disappointment over our kids’ choices.
Every child is unique, and every parent is different, so it’s difficult to prescribe a “One-Size-Fits-All” approach, but I’m going to do my best by drawing on some timeless wisdom from the Bible and the life experience of many people with decades more experience that I possess. I hope these principles will help us all as we navigate the most beautiful (and most challenging) task we’ll ever have…Parenthood!
7 things to do when your kids disappoint you (in no particular order):
1. Love them.
Never let your kids feel that your love is conditional and based on their behavior. Your unconditional love must be the foundation for your relationship and always let them know that your love for them is bigger than their biggest mistake. Always communicate your love for them before AND after you communicate any disappointment in their behavior.
2. Tell them plainly why their behavior was out-of-bounds.
This will clearly look different based on whether your correcting a two-year-old child or reasoning with a twenty-year-old son or daughter. In either case, don’t rely on non-verbals to get your point across. Tell them plainly what they did and why it hurt you or damaged your trust in them.
3. Admit your own shortcomings.
Some people adopt a theory of parenting where we should never show weakness or admit imperfection, because it would somehow discredit our authority as parents. I believe that nothing discredits a person faster than pretending to be perfect. Kids aren’t looking for perfection, but they are looking for authenticity. If you’ll talk about your own struggles and faults, your kids (at any age) will be more willing to open up and accept responsibility for their own poor choices.
For more on this, you can read my popular posts on the 5 things your kids will remember about you and the 7 ways parents harm their children without even realizing it.
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