How to Think about Your Daughter’s Mistakes
Your daughter is going to make mistakes. How do I know this?
Teens are hard-wired to make mistakes. In other words because of where teens are developmentally they will make mistakes.
How you think about your daughter’s mistakes matters significantly.
Whether you are able to see her missteps as a normal part of her development determines how you respond to her. You accept that she is going to have slip-ups, which is not the same thing as condoning or ignoring them.
You know she still needs your input and guidance–and your discipline. After all, this is why she is still living under your roof. While you’re not happy about her mistakes, you’re not rattled or horrified by them either.
As your daughter walks from adolescence to adulthood, you have realistic expectations. Just like a toddler learning to walk, when she falls you are not surprised. This is not where you focus, though. Your attention should be on helping her get back on her feet. You help steady her until she can walk through adulthood on her own.
If you believe that mistakes are not a normal part of a teen’s development, this takes you down a very different road.
You are headed for harsh judgment and shame, either directed towards yourself or towards others.
Perhaps you will judge someone else’s daughter harshly for getting into trouble, and may even feel better about yourself as a parent as a result–until your daughter makes her own mistakes.
Then, real or imagined, you may feel judged by other parents or family members. You may feel they are talking behind your back, saying things like, “She must not be a very good mom if her daughter was caught smoking weed” or “Where was her mom when her daughter sent inappropriate pictures to boys?”
When you feel judged by others, it changes how you see and feel towards your daughter.
It’s easy to turn on your daughter by being judgmental. Instead of appreciating her, you feel disdain. Instead of seeing her gifts and abilities, you may see her as flawed, inferior, dirty, or unworthy.
The most tragic part of your daughter’s mistake is that you lose respect for her, and she will pick up on this. If she continues to feel this judgment, she will internalize your feelings and believe she is flawed and unworthy.
You are not a bad parent if your daughter makes mistakes, even big ones.
The belief that “If you were doing a good job as a mom, your daughter would be well behaved” just isn’t true. It’s not about making your daughter behave.
A good parent slowly lets out the leash of freedom and responsibility while the teen is still at home. You want your daughter to learn how to exercise self-control and implement good decisions. Part of the risk of letting out the leash is that she can make bad decisions.
But most mistakes don’t ruin a teenager’s life–quite the contrary.
When approached with the right mindset, they present opportunities for growth and can be transformative.
Many good things can come from mistakes. They decrease self-righteousness, foster humility, and increase empathy. They also provide opportunities to take responsibility, learn forgiveness, and experience grace.
Your daughter can learn from her mistakes, and you want her making them at home while you can still guide her. You don’t want her so controlled at home that she never learns how to monitor her own behaviour. This sets her up to fail later in life.
If you feel conflicted and discouraged about your daughter’s mistakes, then take 30 minutes and write out your feelings. It’s important to clear out the fog of disappointment, frustration, and betrayal. Remember that your daughter is still growing.
It doesn’t mean that you are a bad mom if your daughter makes a mistake.
Teens make mistakes, and that’s why she needs you.