I sat in the living room explaining to my almost 4 year old that I was sorry.
Sorry I lost my temper.
Sorry that I let something little get in between her and I.
Sorry for not prioritizing her over something trivial.
In those moments of regret, both she and I learned something. She learned that I had weakness and that I admitted it, which in turn taught her that she could come to me in her own moments of weakness. But I, through streaming tears and a tightness in my chest over the situation, learned that regret was one of my greatest parenting tools.
How an unfortunate situation taught me about using regret to better my parenting
The previous Sunday I sat through a church service all about regret and how through Biblical characters like David, we see where his regret shaped the lessons God taught him. But it wasn’t until those moments that I blew up at my daughter did I see it in myself.
You see, she asked for help getting on the toilet and to get her pants down as she whined “I can’t do it.” It frustrated me because I was in the middle of something and knew good and well she could do both. Because she did every. single. day.
She continued to wail in the other room, begrudgingly wriggling out of her shorts. And I finally walked in just to see her peeing all over the floor.
And yet I lost my cool. I put my expectations of her above her need in the moment. Her desire and request in that given time was ignored because she was “big enough”, “old enough”, or “capable enough” in my mind while I finished up my own tasks.
How to use regret as a parenting tool to grow the family
And so then it comes back to regret. The regret for not being there in that moment led me to realize that I could learn from my own shortcomings.
What was it off my back to get up and help her for 30 seconds even if she was capable? Because I don’t want to ignore her pleas in the future when it’s something more important or worse yet, not have her come to me in a time she felt like she was in a sticky situation because I had set a precedent for her.
It is so hard to swallow our pride. No one likes openly apologizing for doing or being wrong, especially to our children.
But in the end, we’re showing them that it’s part of being human. How can we teach them to apologize or to be peace makers if in our own failures, we do not acknowledge them with our children?
And the longer we wait to recognize that we as parents failed, the harder it is to approach it in the future. It’s now, when our kids are young that we can build a relationship instead of seeking to restore it when they’re grown.
Read more about teaching young children consequences through choices.
Treat regret as a gift to learn from mistakes.
We’ve all heard the adage “when you know better, you do better”. And it’s absolutely a truth to live by as a parent.
One of the best things we can do is to accept what we’ve done or accept a situation. We must address the regrets we have to know how we can learn and be better. In fact, as people, we can’t live a regret free life without first living with it.
Turn passive regret into active change.
After seeking to reconcile and noting what you’ve learned, we can move to a place where that regret no longer has a hold on our lives.
Once accepting that life is full of regrets, we can truly start making a difference in our own lives and in parenting our children. Regretting something in the past or learning from mistakes doesn’t mean you have to dwell on the past.
It means you move forward.
You make change.
And you work towards always bettering family relationships.
Ask yourself “What would be my biggest regret once my kids are grown and how can I actively work to change that today?“
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Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 4 children living in Boston, MA and believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!