One afternoon I walked into Andy’s room to mention something to him, and I noticed the sun was shining through his window onto a piece of furniture.
Not wanting the dark colors of the furniture’s upholstery to fade, I walked over to the window to close the curtains.
I did not notice, however, that on the floor by the window was his jade chess set. As I walked to the window, I stepped right in the middle of the chess set and sent the pieces flying all over the floor. [Without thinking how it sounded] I said, “Andy, you should not put your chess set on the floor; it could get broken . . .”. Then I walked out of the room.
A few minutes later he walked into my study . . . . I looked up and asked him what he needed. With a look of concern on his face he said, “Do you realize you walked into my room, kicked my chess set all over the floor, scolded me . . . walked out, and never said anything about being sorry?”
Fortunately . . . we both got tickled as we began to think about what happened. After I apologized, he said something very interesting. . . . “You know, if I had walked in here and confronted you this way and you had defended yourself, I would have really lost respect for you.” . . . I breathed a sigh of relief as I thought of what could have happened to my relationship with Andy over something so trivial as knocking over some chess pieces. Then I thanked the Lord for helping me see my fault and for giving me the courage to apologize.
THE GREAT COVER-UP
Some parents attempt to hide their mistakes. Usually, they are trying to protect the image they feel responsible to portray — the perfect parents who have their act completely together and who can handle anything at any time. The fact is, however, that we should not be afraid to admit our failures or mistakes to our children. As this example from my own life illustrates, we do more to hurt our reputation with our kids by covering up than by ‘fessing up. . . . Children do not understand parents’ motivation behind their attempts to cover their mistakes. What is communicated to the children is that the parents cannot admit when they are wrong. . . .
A GREATER CONSEQUENCE — DISTRUST
When a parent will not admit being wrong, an attitude of general distrust may develop . . . . To cover up is to lie. It is very difficult for someone to trust another person when that person has lied in the past. The tragedy is that these feelings of distrust usually invade every area of a child’s relationship with that particular parent. . . . If allowed to continue, this kind of attitude can destroy the relationship between parent and child, and it can do serious damage to the child’s relationship with a spouse later on. . . .
Another consequence that can result from a parent’s unwillingness to admit failure is a communication breakdown. This happens when a child confronts a parent about the parent’s error or decision and is then punished for being “disrespectful.” Nothing builds communication barriers faster than taking away a child’s right to express an opinion in the home. Although this may not be a parent’s goal, it may be the only means of keeping the mistake from being exposed. The consequences down the road are devastating. . . .
THEY DO WHAT YOU DO
A third consequence of not owning up to mistakes is that a parent teaches a child to do the same thing. . . . Children naturally take their cue from you. When you cover up your mistakes by deceiving your family or by silencing them, you are in effect saying, “The way to deal with failure is to deny it and to silence those who see things differently.” Part of teaching your children how to master life is teaching them how to deal successfully with failure, and this can occur only if you are willing to admit failure in the first place. . . .
For many people, admitting to an error is no easy task. . . . Something deep inside all of us flares up in defense of our decisions when they are questioned. That “something” is the flesh. Individuals who are walking after the flesh will do anything necessary to keep from looking bad, to keep from looking as if they made a mistake.
People who make it a habit of walking after the flesh are, by the very nature of the flesh, insecure. They look only to themselves for a sense of identity and worth, but since the creature has no real significance apart from the Creator, there is a general sense of insecurity. If people look only to themselves for their sense of significance and security, the natural thing to do when confronted about a fault of some kind is to deny it because accusations are direct threats to the security and the sense of self-worth of the individual. . . .
On an emotional level, you may feel that admitting an error is synonymous with being a failure. This is something you must discover for yourself. But if this pattern is allowed to continue, you will ultimately alienate yourself from your children as well as [others]. . . .
If you want to keep your kids on your team, you need to let them know you understand; you understand their weaknesses, struggles, and failures; you understand because you have a few yourself. Admit your errors, own up to your mistakes, share your weaknesses, and you will have taken another positive step toward keeping your children on your team.