Sometimes I feel like I’m failing as a parent. How do I move past the guilt?
Parenting is hard, and we don’t always get it right. Every parent feels like a failure at times. Often we operate in the dark, making the best decisions we can with what we know at the time. And then there are days when we truly mess things up out of exhaustion, ignorance, or even our own selfishness. We are all broken people who fall short of God’s ideal.
God commissions parents to protect, provide, and prune our children as they grow into citizens of God’s kingdom. Our job is not to be perfect; that is not humanly possible. With realistic expectations rather than unattainable standards, we serve as parents to the best of our ability, following the Holy Spirit’s leading.
We can have confidence that God has called and empowered us to be parents yet show humility in acknowledging our shortcomings and making amends. When we lose our patience or make a poor decision, we can apologize to our kids. Our children look to us as their example for how to live. Through us, they discern a model for how to live as broken people in a broken world.
We all make mistakes, but dwelling in guilt and shame is unhealthy. Bad parenting decisions can arise out of feelings of guilt. When we feel ashamed, we can become indulgent parents and lose sight of maintaining healthy boundaries for our kids. Rather, we hold in tension exercising parental authority and doing so with a servant’s humility. We model what it looks like to lead while acknowledging our mistakes. God already died for us to remove our guilt and shame, so we can certainly extend grace to ourselves.
Messing up is part of life. We can learn and grow from the mistakes that we make. By humbly owning up to our mistakes and seeking the healing of the relationship, we model servant leadership to our families. This humble posture will be a gift that our children can emulate and value throughout their life.
About the Author
Rev. Deb Koster leads the Christian Reformed Church's family and marriage ministry, FamilyFire.com, at ReFrame Ministries. She and her husband, Steven, worship at Grace Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich.