by Erin Brown Conroy
“I blew it. I’m sorry.” These words are some of the hardest words in the English language to say.
Mistakes. Failure. Unhealthy responses. Poor behavior. Most of the time, our hearts know what is “right,” and our inmost desire is to respond our child in loving, kind ways. Unfortunately, as parents – and human beings – we’ll never be perfect. Even though we’d
like to act and say all of the wonderful “parent things” that we know are the “best,” we just won’t. We’re prone to fail.
So what happens when we do “blow it”? When we’ve said something unkind, yelled in anger, turned our back and ignored a situation where we should have intervened, or just plain said the hurtful thing – What do we do?
It takes a “big” person to humbly realize when we’ve failed. It takes a bigger person to change our heart, our inner thoughts, and our feelings, to a place where we are experiencing sorrow and recognizing the need to “make things right.” It means letting go of my “right” to hold anger or pride, dropping self-defenses, and putting myself in a place of vulnerability called “humility.” Humility allows us to see the wrong, admit the error, and then do something about it.
If I admit failure, I’m not saying I’m a “bad parent.” I’m simply recognizing that I’ve done something that – either knowingly or unknowingly – hurt my child. I’m recognizing that I need to take steps, either in my words or my actions, to repair the damage. We then take action to change our attitude and our approach to our child to one of gentleness, humility, and positive kindness.
Anyone can say the words “I’m sorry.” It takes a special something to go beyond the words and feelings to actually changing a behavior. From the time when my children were small, I’ve always told them that “sorry means change.” If we’re truly sorry, it
impacts us deeply on the inside. If we’re impacted deeply on the inside, we’ll make a change in our behavior in the future.
Change is not easy. We’re creatures of habit, pattern, and comfortableness, even if what we’re hanging onto isn’t in the category of healthy behavior. In order to take an old action or habit and create a new one, we need to have a new resource to dig into for raw
material for the change. We need to put a positive in the place of a negative.
For most of us, that means putting new information into our lives. Through reading, video or audio programs, or conversation with others, we need new material to draw from. We need examples to follow, mentors to watch and learn from, and other families.
to interact with and learn healthy responses from. Change just won’ happen on its own. We need to replace the old with new.
Accountability means that someone is there for me to help me make the changes that I need to make. It means someone will talk to me on a regular basis, checking in with how the process of change is going. It means that I know that someone cares enough about my succeeding that they’ll ask hard questions of me, checking regularly with me as to whether or not I’m following my plans for change. Whether it’s a spouse, friend, relative, or professional counselor that holds me accountable for my change doesn’t matter. What matters is that I know someone is there for me to cheer me on when I succeed and help me to take steps forward again when I fail.
“Every Day is a New Day”
I have a good friend who went through some extremely tough times about seven years ago. Left as a single parent of his young son, dealing emotionally with unfaithfulness and abandonment in his crumbled marriage, I could count on the same greeting each and
every time I met up with him. “How are you doing? How’s the day going?” I’d ask. He’d reply with a reflective grin, “Every day is a new day!” What a life lesson in that simple phrase.
Years ago, I heard it put this way: “This is a new now.” Each day, each hour, each minuteis new from the one before it. And with that newness comes new opportunity, a new chance to begin again. A new moment for change.
Admitting failure takes us to a fresh point of a new beginning. It allows us to change, grow, and become the parent we want to be. Admitting failure isn’t the feeling of sitting at the bottom of the well. It’s the feeling of looking up into the clear blue sky above and