My Parenting Mistakes

Category: Weekly Columns

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Most parent bloggers and speakers come across – with intention – as experts. I’ve always claimed to be a layman dad blogger. I write from the view that I am doing my best but I make mistakes along the way. Recently, I feel those mistakes have come back to bite me in the a**. I want to share them so others may learn and, perhaps, not make the same mistake. Often, in 20-20 hindsight, it’s easy to see the mistake, but in-the-moment we usually try to make the best decision.

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Let’s be clear. There are no perfect people and there are no perfect parents. Most of us (parents) try and do the best. The parent that abuses a child is himself or herself self-destructive, and is not going to read this column or even acknowledge their shortcomings. It’s ironic that the older I become the more willing I am to admit my faults and HOW LITTLE I ACTUALLY KNOW. I’m fond of saying that, “the only good thing about getting older is maybe I’m getting better” – implying at how I handle people and situations. So, for instance, when I get cut off on the road, I simply shrug now. Yes, these two seem to contradict themselves, but they can co-exist.

But, when it comes to my parenting I am reaping some of the rewards and pain, perhaps, of how I raised my children. I liked to play the martyr of being a single parent but that’s simply the same as my initials – B.S. My deck was pretty full and I had few problems. But, when I’m truly honest I see how hard it is for other single parents or other couples. I have married (couple) friends with two children, both of whom have serious learning disabilities. The consequence is they’ve had to sacrifice now and for the rest of their lives to help equip their boys to survive. Every day is a struggle and every night is one of worrying about the future (for them).

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On the latter point, I do share some commonality with them in that I do worry considerably about my boys’ futures.

I also believe that the BEST parents in the world can end up with “lousy” kids and the WORST parents in the world can end up with the most wonderful kids. Luck does play a part in it, in spite of our desire to believe we can make a significant difference (in our kids’ lives).
Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 12.25.46 PMMy biggest mistake? I forgot the word, NO. I raised my boys without enforcing serious obligations in the house and later, in the outside world. I gave in and allowed my boys to manipulate me and I, deep inside, wanted to make their lives as easy as possible to compensate for the loss of their mother (another story).

An obvious mistake resulting from this is that, to some degree, I spoiled my boys. We hear the word “entitlement” a great deal about the current (young) generation and I spoiled and entitled my boys. By the time I re-married, my second wife was unable to un-do the damage or convince me to do otherwise. After all, what did she know? She didn’t have any children.

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She went along with my authority because I used that fact that I was their biological parent and I’d done a pretty good job so far (she got in their lives when they were still a few years from their teens).

The old cliché that the older the kid, the bigger the problems came true and many of my wife’s ideas were solid so another mistake I made was to NOT listen to her and to think I knew it all.

I know nothing is what I’ve come to believe. I only know what I’m going to eat for breakfast.

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Very soon, we will be empty nesters starting a new life in a different state. Our boys will be elsewhere. They are adults now and it’s time to let them live their lives without our interference. Yes, we’re paying for our younger son’s college but we are now demanding that he get a job and pay for his own “entertainment” and “extras.”

I know I did a few things right so this isn’t a beat-up-on-myself piece. What mistakes did you make? What did you do right? Please share…

  • David Weber

    Very moving self-reflection. But what happened to Mistakes 2 the 5?

    No. 6 is of special relevance to me, as a university professor. One of the classes I teach is a large (for our department) class, about 170+ students per semester. In one of the final class meetings I give a lecture on the topic of how one majoring in my academic discipline — which is communication — can leverage majoring in comm. for a good career. (The possibilities are multitudinous.)

    In that lecture I used to say, in one passage, “The world IS waiting for your cohort. You will work more cheaply than older workers, you will have new ideas because of ‘beginner’s mind’ and, at present, you are already up to speed with various forms of technology that older or veteran workers are not. On the other hand, no one is waiting for you PERSONALLY.”

    I next point to class members by name whose career goals I may happen to know, and say, “For example, no one is specifically waiting for John Smith to become a PR specialist…no one is specifically waiting for Mary Jones to become a broadcast journalist….There are too many of you for the available positions in your areas of interest. From the point of view of the organizations you may want to work in, any one of you could be any one of you, and it wouldn’t matter as long as you looked like you, and not someone else, could solve that organization’s problems.”

    From this point I would springboard to a discussion of how a person must “brand” and “sell” one’s self more effectively than a peer wanting the same job; and how it’s no one else’s responsibility than the student’s to make prospective employers “get” how their formal education in communication would be an asset to the organization. To those who may have wanted to start their own businesses, I would add, “Everything I’ve said holds just as much for you entrepreneurs…you have to ‘sell’ yourself to bankers, potential clients, and other service providers, who would readily do for someone else instead of you what you want them to do for you.”

    The result of this was not a sobering maturation…it was indignation, borne out in class evaluations. Too many students, referencing that lecture, would write things such as, essentially, “Weber is rude and mean” or “Weber tries to frighten us instead of make us feel good about ourselves.”

    I have fully sanded down many of the rough edges of that lecture, and rarely get those comments in the evals any longer. The shot-of-cold-water approach was too much for too many of the students to bear…because they were, per Mistake #6, far too accustomed to being the center of the worlds of parents, brothers and sisters, high school teachers and counselors, etc.) and unable to realize, or accept, that one day, the cocoon breaks open.

    Addendum: the so-called non-traditional students (i.e., those who were in their mid- or late-twenties or older) in the class L*O*V*E*D the lecture. They wholly “got” it and concurred unconditionally…because they were often as much as a decade away from those days of being the center of the world, and knew what it meant to be a face in the crowd, and therefore required to earn, rather than be given, a good seat.

    • Bruce Sallan

      @disqus_dU5ulU60s7:disqus – what a SAD “tribute” to this ENTITLED and SPOILED generation of kids – I can’t even say “young adults” when you offer real good and sincere advice and are excoriated for it!