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Redemptive parenting failures

Five things your kids can learn when you fail

by Trevor Lee

Saturday was a bad day. Well, actually about 30 minutes was bad. The brief spurt between the end of my son’s basketball game and our departure for family pictures was unadulterated chaos.

The majority of the disaster revolved around two things: my son’s meltdown and my reaction. In the course of half an hour I acted in ways I never want to behave as a father—being impatient, threatening punishment and yelling. While I hate that I reacted in those ways, I do think there are some redemptive things that can come out of such parenting failures. 

1. The opportunity to model responsibility

When I fail as a dad in one respect or another, I have the opportunity to take responsibility for my actions. I could have given my son all the “reasons” I didn’t react the way I should have. I could have pushed the blame onto him for melting down—because an eight-year-old should be more mature than a 35-year-old, right?

We live in a society that often seeks every course of action other than taking responsibility for one’s own actions. I don’t want my son to grow up to be one of those people. Times like Saturday allow me to go to him and clearly take responsibility for my actions.

2. The opportunity to engage conflict in healthy ways

I have avoided conflict for as long as I can remember. That’s not a good thing. When conflict is avoided or mishandled it leads to a negative impact on relationships. When it is engaged and worked through, conflict actually adds depth and character to relationships. It makes our relationships stronger. I’ve been learning that, especially these past five years, and this was another opportunity to grow as a person and model positive conflict resolution for my son.

3. The opportunity for my son to extend forgiveness

I won’t be the only one who does something wrong to my son in his life. I also won’t be the only one who wants to be forgiven. I want to be a person who can forgive others, and I want that for my kids too. My failure gave my son the opportunity to practice forgiving. I hope this leads to an ability to forgive others as well—even those who don’t particularly care to be forgiven.

4. The opportunity to be forgiven

I would rather extend forgiveness to someone than receive it myself. I have an especially hard time forgiving myself when I mess up with my kids, my wife or others I love. But I need to be able to receive forgiveness from others. It is an important part of deep relationships and is a core component of my faith.

5. The opportunity to see the strength of our relationship

Later that Saturday we had some good times together. As our family was riding in the car, I was struck by the beauty of relationships that can withstand meltdowns and failures. Our relationship is no worse off because of his meltdown or my failure in response. If anything, it’s probably better. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of this, and it made me long to continue becoming the kind of parent, husband and friend who can fail and be failed by others.

Trevor Lee is the lead pastor at Trailhead Church, Centennial, Colo.

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