How Can We Make Sure Our Kids Don’t Make the Same Mistakes We Did?

A parent’s desire to protect their child from harm is perhaps the most powerful instinct in the world.

Image by Foundry Co from Pixabay

So when we see our children going through life and rites of passage, such as learning to drive, dating, or undertaking major exam, we want to give them the benefit of our years of experience to ensure that they don’t make the same mistakes that we did. And yet, our boys are often unwilling or unable to consider our experiences. Our experience of the world seems irrelevant to them; after all, the world has changed a lot in recent decades! 

Here’s the truth: There is nothing you can do to ensure that your child won’t make the same mistakes you did because your child has free will. You can, however, tilt the odds in their favor.

Don’t Assume You Know What’s Best

Sometimes parents feel as if they must be a shining example. But our children see us at our best and our worst. So while you and car accident lawyer types talk the dangers of distracted driving (including car crashes), your son has likely seen you answer or make a phone call while driving. Similarly, he’s seen you lose your cool and yell, even though you talk about the importance of treating people with respect.

Yes, you have years of knowledge, but like all humans, you’re a work in progress. So is your son. And he’s a different human being, facing different situations. He knows this — and you need to recognize this fact as well because by the time your son reaches his teen years, he will have made up his mind about certain things in life. It’s time to being relinquishing some power. You can’t control your child because he needs to make (and learn from ) his own choices. (Children who don’t have this opportunity may become more self-destructive.) So, encourage your son’s sense of autonomy. You don’t always know what’s best. He may understand the immediate situation better than you do.

Don’t Compare Your Child to Others

Some parents make the mistake of attempting to motivate their sons by saying that “so and so” has done this and that. You may think that this approach will nudge them in the right direction, by appealing to their sense of competition. But the best thing you can do is to encourage them to be themselves- “you do you.” 

Every child is different, even within the same family. Look at what’s special and extraordinary about our children about your son and help him develop his innate skills. 

Do Not Project

If your parents pushed you to pursue a particular activity that they considered worthwhile, you may have learned to ignore your instincts and natural talents. Your parents’ intent may have been good — and you may have even developed some useful skills or garnered praise and accolades — but at great personal cost. Don’t do the same to your child.

As a parent, you cannot live vicariously through your child. Instead, think about what your definition of success is, and then seek to understand your child’s definition of success. 

Success is subjective. Encourage and support your child as he follows his instincts.  

Besides, your beliefs about what’s viable may be outdated. Career paths today are numerous; there are a variety of professions that didn’t exist until the last 10 years, and are profitable. From life coaches to YouTubers, people are making a living today doing things that once seemed a waste of time. Let your child find his own way. Nurture his passion and curiosity. 

Stop Setting Unrealistic Expectations

Lots of parents set extraordinarily high, unrealistic expectations because they think doing so may motivate their child. The problem with this approach is that it can make a child feel like he’s not good enough. We don’t want our children to feel like constant failures or disappointments. Learn to recognize the difference between high expectations and unrealistic ones. 

We all have ambitions in life, but your children’s are different from yours. The poem This Be The Verse by Philip Larkin explores, in raw and concise language, the way parents inadvertently pass problems onto their children. You don’t have to continue the cycle. You may worry that your child will make the same mistakes you did, but it’s crucial to give him space to mistakes anyway. 

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The Building Boys Bulletin

The Building Boys Bulletin Newsletter gives you the facts, encouragement, and inspiration you need to help boys thrive. Written by Jennifer L.W. Fink, mom of four sons and author of Building Boys: Raising Great Guys in a World That Misunderstands Males, Building Boys Bulletin includes:

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“I learned a lot about helping boys thrive over the past 20+ years — most of it the hard way! I’m eager to share what I’ve learned to make your path a little easier.”   – Jennifer

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