By Nicholeen Peck
“Nicholeen, is it possible for me to care too much about my child? I feel really bad when they make a wrong choice and seem to have a tendency to want to protect them from making any mistake. Is this okay? Some people say children should learn from mistakes. But, there is also the philosophy that parents should teach children enough so that the children don’t have to make the same mistakes the parents make. I don’t want my children to make any mistakes and don’t usually allow them too. Is this okay?”
How Children Learn
I understand that you don’t want your children to make mistakes and I understand your philosophy that children shouldn’t need to make the same mistakes their parents made. We should be able to learn from each others’ mistakes. That is the ideal way to learn, in fact. But, not all lessons end up getting learned ideally. Don’t let yourself worry about every little mistake your child makes.
Children, and all people, learn most of their lessons by applying cause and effect. Think about how you learned to do your hair and how you learned that telling the truth was best. These lessons are learned by analyzing what happens after the action takes place; the positive or negative consequence.
If a parent micro-manages a child and never lets them see the effects of a bad hair day or the effects of lying to a friend, then the parent will not only deprive the children of being able to analyze the negative effects of a situation, but likely also minimize the opportunity to analyze the positive effects of a situation. A child who doesn’t see the negative will have a hard time recognizing the positive too.
No Child Is Perfect
No child is perfect. Perfection is not even possible until a person has conquered his vices and learned his vital moral lessons. So, any parent who wants a perfect child is missing the point. I am not making perfect children at my house. “I am making joyful adults who know what their mission is life is and can’t wait to fight for it, and have solid relationships with God and family.” (Parenting a House United) This parent mission focuses more on the adult that will emerge from my home than on the child that is learning there.
Some parents make the mistake of expecting perfection of their families. While having low tolerances is preferred for teaching cause and effect, trying to be perceived as perfect will only lead the family relationships to stress and distrust. The family will not trust a leader who is more worried about being thought of as perfect than about accepting, loving and teaching their children.
Can You Care Too Much?
I don’t think a parent can love too much or care too much, but I do think many parents are in the habit of protecting themselves from having to teach or correct their children. Embrace mistakes and the learning time that follows. Consistently and lovingly connect to your child as you correct them and you will love those moments. Your child shouldn’t live in fear of making a mistake. An important part of growing up is learning how to recover and repent when a mistake is made. And, every parent needs the correction moments to have a deep connection with the child.
If you stop all corrections by micro-managing all decisions, then you eliminate those moments to connect. You don’t show your child that it is okay to make a mistake and possibly encourage dishonest living, and you run the risk of not allowing your child to learn cause and effect which will possibly stop them from learning self-government. They will rely upon their parent for every choice.
I think pre-teaching is a good choice for the parent who asked this question. If pre-teaching happens, the parent will get to connect and teach, and the child will still be encouraged to make a choice.