The Value of Imperfect Parents 

Written by Janet Denison
Published on April 18, 2016

My first year as a second grade teacher, I taught an adorable little boy. He was quiet, didn’t have a lot of friends and seemed very nervous about his schoolwork. He was dressed in the preppy Izod clothing that was popular at that time. And he didn’t smile very often.

His mom came in for a parent/teacher conference almost immediately after school began. Her expectations were high. Her child had been under-valued at every school he had attended. (He had a different school each year.) She was concerned, even distraught, that the other children were mistreating him and being unfriendly. She said she worked with him every afternoon on his schoolwork, asking him to correct every mistake he made. She went on to explain that she had quit her job to stay home with her kids. They were her full-time work now.

When this mom asked me what she could do to help him achieve at a higher level, I suggested she allow him to wear play clothes and put him on a soccer team. She turned me into the principal, who then tried to soothe her feelings. I had not meant to hurt her feelings, but I thought she honestly wanted my opinion. I believed that if her son made some friends and felt more comfortable in the class, he would have more success. I will always wonder what happened to that sweet boy. I hope all turned out well.

I didn’t have kids of my own during that first year of teaching, or I might have been better prepared for that conference. I didn’t know those overwhelming feelings of responsibility that come with parenting. Parents want their children to succeed in life. We want to avoid pitfalls and mistakes. But why is that true?

Haven’t we learned more from our mistakes than from our successes? Some of our greatest lessons come from the times we are perfectly imperfect. The one guarantee that every parent can count on is that we, and our kids, are going to blow it—multiple times. That truth should be a source of joy even more than it is a worry. We don’t have to pretend to ourselves, to our kids, or to each other that we are perfect because no one will believe it anyway.

Imperfections are valuable. A Huffington Post article reported: “Mistakes, failure and imperfection have created life-changing explorations and ‘happy accidents.’ Did you know that mistakes, a form of imperfection (because if you were perfect you wouldn’t make a mistake, would you?), have led to the discovery of DNA, penicillin, aspirin, X-rays, Teflon, Velcro, nylon, cornflakes, Coca-Cola and chocolate-chip cookies?”

Parents can give their children a great gift if they will teach them to expect mistakes in themselves and others. The real lessons come with what we do when we mess up. The only people who get through life without a lot of mistakes are the people who get through life not accomplishing very much. Our kids can learn to redeem their mistakes and grow from them. When that happens, they are better off than if they had never made the mistake in the first place.

One of the greatest gifts you can give your kids is the chance to see you fail and fix your mistakes. When parents are truthful about their flaws, kids can be truthful about theirs. Kids want their parents to be proud of them and often feel the need to cover up their bungles. If those kids are good at the cover-ups, the parents might never have the chance to help them learn to handle the problem.

I hope that sweet boy grew to be a strong and capable man. He had a mom who loved him and wanted to be a perfect parent. I hope somewhere down that road, she figured out that perfection was the wrong goal. A strong family has imperfections. We all need grace, love, forgiveness, and instruction. Every perfectly imperfect family member needs God. Mistakes and weaknesses are valuable because they help all of us remember to be grateful that our imperfections are perfected in Christ.

 

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Janet Denison

Janet Denison teaches others to live an authentic faith through her writing, speaking, and teaching ministry. She blogs weekly at JanetDenison.org and often at ChristianParenting.org.

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