Social media is filled with parental success stories. From tales of gifted students to children who excel at arts and sports and just about anything they attempt, it’s clear America has the greatest parents in the world.
I am not among you. And I’m OK with that.
My son is 22, a college graduate, and working fulltime at a job that uses his major. As far as I’m concerned, the ends justify the parenting means, so I must have done some things correctly.
But not all.
These are the 5 biggest parenting mistakes I made:
Perhaps you’ve made a few of them, too.
1. Too lenient.
This was especially true during the troubled times, age 14-17. Rarely did I dole out punishment fitting the crime, as when I opened his door at 3 a.m. to see an open window and empty bed. When he answered his phone on the third ring and said he’d be right home, my heart started beating again.
The next day he told me that when he heard the worry in my voice, he promised never to do anything like that again.
And of course he did. He was a teen.
Over beers a year ago, I confessed my leniency bothered me. “You did let me get away with too much,” he said. “But hey, I made it through with no arrests or serious injuries, so there’s that.”
2. Too trusting.
When he said he was done with his homework, he headed out to play with no questions asked. When he got in a fight at middle school, he said he was defending a friend. When I found a six-pack outside his bedroom window, he said he was holding it for a friend. OK, I didn’t believe that one, my gullibility only went so far.
But there were many times mistrust would have been a valuable tool.
“I disagree,” my son told me when he was post-teen. “Because of that trust, I came to you with stuff I would have kept to myself otherwise. Knowing you’d believe me was important.”
Maybe. But still.
3. Buying into the “Everybody gets a trophy” mentality.
My son displayed less-than-average skills in organized sports, including a stint on a soccer team that scored one goal in 12 games. Yet each time, he received a participation trophy, a tangible symbol of the “You are awesome, just do your best” thinking. His self-esteem would have survived a bit of criticism, constructive or otherwise, in all his endeavors.
“Those trophies were stupid,” my son says now. “Pretty sure I tossed them.”
4. Spoiling him.
Presents flowed at Christmas and his birthday. Summer always held an out-of-state vacation, and when he turned 16 he got a car (used) and insurance. He often received what he wanted, except that time he was 12 and asked for an iPhone.
If he can, I am sure he will spoil his own kids. The circle of parental life.
5. Taking him to see “Barney’s Great Adventure” when he was 3.
It meant that for the rest of his life, when anyone asked him, “What was the first movie you ever saw?” he had to say, “Barney’s Great Adventure.”
Or just lie and say he forgot. He’s still not past that.
Despite the missteps and outright blunders, I wouldn’t change a thing
That’s including that absolutely miserable season of soccer. Because everything that happened created and shaped the young man who carries our DNA to the next generation. I feel pretty good about our odds.