Recently, I blew it big with 3 of my 5 kids. The kind of mistake that has you crying as you are falling asleep saying to the Lord, "How did I even do that? I can't believe I was so irresponsible as a mom. How could I set such a poor example for them? How could I have hurt them like that? Oh God I'm so sorry."
Have you ever been there?
Over the past 23 years I have made some big mistakes as a mom. I've hurt my kids' hearts. All mothers make mistakes. We are human beings and sometimes we get it wrong. I am certainly in that category.
But how can we make the wrongs right?
In my journey as a mom, there are certain strategies & behaviors I have learned that bring about healing and knit our hearts back together. These tips have been invaluable to me (especially as my kids have gotten older) in making things right and helping us to move forward together. I am so grateful to my husband of 25 years, Harry. He has taught me so much about faithfulness, humility and wise parenting. So much of the following strategies we do in concert, as a team. But I also know that so many readers will be single moms or single guardians. Or maybe you're just alone in your parenting partnership right now, or you and your partner are not on the same page about this topic. These strategies are just as powerful for you.
REPENT TO GOD. Not all mistakes are sin, but all sins are mistakes. If your actions fall in the sin category, own that with God. Confess. Repent. Talk it through with Him. Pour out your heart. Receive His forgiveness.
OWN IT TO YOUR KIDS. When you are made aware of the mistake, hold yourself accountable for it. Say exactly what you did, why it was wrong, why you were responsible, why they should not be treated or spoken to that way & apologize. Ask for forgiveness. Resist the urge to call attention to other people's actions in the situation. There can be time for that later. Right now your child/children need to know you are the kind of adult who knows right from wrong and can take responsibility for their own actions in a way that promotes peace, love & reconciliation. Own your stuff.
CREATE A SAFE SPACE. Allow your kids to share how they felt in the moment or situation. Create a safe space for them to process with you.
ASK QUESTIONS. Sometimes we forget that we are one of the most important adults in our kids' lives and it can be hard for them to express themselves, especially when we have hurt them. We can open the door for them to share their heart by gently asking questions such as, "How did you feel?" "How did you experience me in that situation?" "What were you thinking about?" "Were you angry? Scared? Sad? Confused?" What did I do (or fail to do) that caused those feelings?" "What did you wish you could have said to me in that moment?" "What would you have liked me to have done differently?"
LISTEN AND BE CALM. Don't get defensive. Don't interrupt. Ask God to let you hear their heart.
DO NOT BE A VICTIM. Victims feel sorry for themselves when they are exposed, and they make more of themselves than of their poor actions. For instance, instead of being calm and controlling our emotions, we bawl and cry and make our sorrow over our mistake the real star of the conversation. A good way to know this unhealthy shift has occurred is that our kids feel they must comfort and reassure us that everything is alright. Over and over. The point of trying to make things right is to create space to talk and share so that we can help them to navigate and sort through the damage we caused. Of course it is okay to be upset and for them to reassure us in the process of sharing, but when our feelings become the focus we've gotten off course.
DON'T CONDEMN YOURSELF OR LET SHAME IN. Condemnation leads us away from God and into our shame. Once we are there the enemy can accuse, abuse, berate and harm us in many ways, all of which hinder us from reconciling with our kids and being the mom God calls us to be. Conviction leads us to God, where we receive love, patience, kindness, faithfulness, truth, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and the strength to face the consequences of our actions. He helps us to sort through our motives and the causes of our behavior so we can change and grow, and love Him and our kids even better.
DON'T HIDE. Sometimes we lose the battle against shame and condemnation and we are tempted to hide. This can look like staying in your room or getting very busy cleaning or doing work. Either way you are not accessible. This is what Adam & Eve did and it's a bad move. I am always tempted to hide! But if I had the audacity to hurt my kids, I can have the strength to suffer the consequences and be present with them to make it right. I believe this is key for two reasons: first, we do not want to set the example that when we hurt the ones we love we hide from them. Secondly, when we hide we make it about us and leave them to process on their own. All children want to love their parents. Even when we blow it. Your kids love you and need your help, even if you're the one that created that need.
FORGIVE YOURSELF. Accept that you are going to make mistakes. You are human, after all. Remember that Christ died on the cross and rose again for this sin you have committed. This sin is covered. This sin will, somehow, be used for your good and God's glory. Can you believe that? Isn't God amazing? What a promise!!! He is not going to EVER give up on you. Even if it isn't sin, it is still covered in the love & grace of God. Remind yourself to forgive yourself when you are tempted to condemn yourself, and ask Christ for the strength to hold all of your feelings while holding space and healing with your kids. He is faithful. He will do this.
BE OPEN TO MORE THAN ONE DISCUSSION. Sometimes it can take a little time to work through things. Sometimes our kids need some time to forgive. They may need a few days to think about things and have more than one conversation. Being open to this with my own kids has been an effective strategy to healing. It says to them, "I understand that I was wrong and my actions hurt you. I do not expect you to be fine in 5 minutes. I am committed to making things right, and so I am willing to be patient. I am here if you need to talk." I will say that the number of discussions (at least in my home) correlates to the severity of the mistake. Small mistakes shouldn't take 6 weeks to work through, but larger, more hurtful mistakes can.
SEEK HELP, if necessary. Depending on the mistake and the age of your child/children, you may want to bring in a trusted friend, family member or counselor to help talk things out. This can be a beautiful process. It says to our kids, "Hey, sometimes I'm not sure how to make things right, but I can get us the help we need. My relationship with you is so important to me I am willing to talk about my mistake with you and others. I'm not trying to hide my failure in the walls of our home. It is not a secret. I am strong enough and love you enough to seek support."
I am so grateful for my kids! They are so quick to process, forgive, and love. They speak the truth lovingly, are gentle, faithful, kind and eager to reconcile. My kids are peacemakers and they love when it is hard. In this family we believe the best about each other (most days!), and we end together.
Oh how I hate when I make mistakes as a mom and hurt them or set a bad example! But how much more would I hate it if I did not know how to help my family recover? Recovering from mistakes, large and small, is a necessary skill in our parenting arsenal because it shows our kids how to recover, too. When we lead our kids in the process, not only do they get to see how to handle their own mistakes, but it equips them with the power to love even when they are hurt. It teaches them how to be forgivers while still setting boundaries. It teaches them how they should be loved, and teaches them how to love like Christ.
Coaching my clients through sticky parenting scenarios is part of what I do. If you are in need of mom coaching, I would consider it an honor to support you. We can work through everything from home management to teen tantrums. Click the link to book an intro session!