It’s inevitable. It can’t be avoided. And it’s miserable. You will, no matter what you do, fail as a parent at some point.
Maybe you already have, but if you haven’t, I can guarantee that you will. And it’s more than likely that you’ll know without a doubt when it happens. If the kids don’t outright say it, your spouse probably will. But let’s be honest: the proof is in their reactions. I know immediately when I make a terrible choice. “Fail” is a daily part of my vocabulary, whether or not I like it, and the fallout is all around me when I have failed.
And, oh, those dirty looks.
So what’s a dad to do? How can we make right what we’ve done so extremely wrong?
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That’s right: admit you’ve failed. Go to the people you’ve hurt or upset and let them know that you know. Say sorry to the kid you just yelled at. To the spouse you were short with. To the family you love so much it hurts. Don’t be too proud to say you’re stupid or petty or shortsighted (hint: you are). Be sincere, and expect absolutely nothing in return (a lesson we’re teaching our kids when they apologize). This is about humility and self-awareness, not about getting your family back on your “track.” Your track was wrong, after all.
SECOND: HUG IT OUT.
If you’re all angry and grumpy, try some physical affection. Offer a hug to your kids and see how that affects the reaction to your latest fail. They may act all tough and strong, but what they probably are is scared and weak. Offer the same to your spouse (if it jives with their love language—otherwise, it may just seem annoying when they’re upset with you). Sometimes it’s just what they (and you) need to remember that relationship is more important than conflict.
Remember all the times you were told how good a nap is for you? I tell my four kids all the time that rest is necessary for their health. And yet, do I follow this advice? Heck no! I’m running like crazy almost all day every day, and I’m not stopping to smell the roses. I’ve got too much to do, period. But when it comes down to it, the lack of margins in our lives can destroy our ability to deal with things appropriately. So take a break, even if it’s not a nap. Get out and walk around. Hang with a friend. Take time and read an actual book, not just social media. Rest has been a part of human existence from the beginning. Take it.
FOURTH: GET IN THE WORD.
When everything seems to be falling apart around me (and with kids in the house, sometimes that’s more literal than you’d think), I need something solid and permanent to hold to. For me, it’s God’s Word. Digging into Psalms, Proverbs, the gospels, the epistles, whatever. Get out a bible (even on your phone) and start reading about God’s vision for you and your family. Proverbs is a great book for this, since it deals a lot with wisdom, response to issues, and kindness. But for me, sometimes it’s the reassurance that my imperfections won’t change what God has said about me: that I am His and He is mine. My salvation is guaranteed, even on the days where I’m pulling my own hair out because I can’t get a grip on these children I love so dearly.
FIFTH: GET UP AND FAIL AGAIN
You’re not going to get through one failure and be done with it altogether. You’re going to fail again. And again and again. Just make sure that each time you get back up you’re aiming to fail less hard the next time. Learn from the mistakes you’ve made and then move forward towards a life that looks more like Jesus. You’re still going to scream, yell, fight, and panic. It just should be a bit more gentle of a fall the next time if you’re doing this right.
Ultimately, our families will know that perfection isn’t possible, but we have to always set our eyes on that end goal of being the best parents we can possibly be. It’s way too easy to focus on our bad moments and deem the failures as our defining qualities. Don’t do it. It’s going to be hard, but you have to walk away from each fail with a sense of identity that rests in the love you have for your family, not in the anger you might have encountered along the way.
You’ll always make mistakes, but the real mistake is believing that those mistakes are the end of your story. You have much more in you, and God has much more for you.