I’ve never been able to idolize any human being who came across as perfect. I can’t believe in something that I know isn’t real. That’s why I like my heroes to be imperfect. If they can be human… and still be awesome… that is something I can hope to achieve.
I have to believe that our children need the same type of example from us. So many times though, we parents feel that if we’re not right 100% of the time, then we lose somehow. We’re not sure what we’ll lose… but it’ll be gone and we’ll miss it and that is that!
The problem is, thinking back to my own childhood, I knew when my parents made mistakes. I made decisions, pacts, and judgments based on what I understood at the time. If they tried to gloss it over, or pretend it never happened, or even worse, make like it was right… it had the opposite effect they were hoping for. I lost respect for them and swore, once more, never to be like them.
The solution to this issue is difficult but simple. When we screw up as a parent or spouse… we need to admit it and apologize. Our kids see us when we’re acting stupid… and they need to see what happens as a result. They need to see us humble ourselves. They need an example of how to fail. We’re afraid to show weakness… but it takes guts to let it show. It takes strength to be weak.
The other day I got mad with my wife. I was loud and annoyed. Like a flash in the pan it was over… but there were my kids at the breakfast table looking at me. My daughter asked what was wrong. I told her that I got angry with Mom… but I was wrong and shouldn’t have been loud. She learned that this wasn’t acceptable or typical behavior. It wasn’t the norm… and wouldn’t be the norm. Dad was wrong and would correct the behavior. Emotional scarring averted.
It’s not the only time I have had to apologize to her. Once I was mistaken in a discipline situation. Mom had told her one thing, I didn’t know about it and told her another. Tears and confusion followed. I went to her room and told her what had happened… that she wasn’t in trouble… and that I was wrong and very sorry. You could see the hurt melt away from her eyes. Again, emotional scarring averted.
Apologizing is powerful. It sets an example. Creates accountability within the family. Helps kids see a direct link between the standards you have for them and the benefits as an adult. Mostly though, it makes you real. It turns around a negative and makes it a positive. It bonds your kids to you rather than pushing them away.
The goal with apologizing is to do it as much as necessary, but as little as possible.