Do children learn from parent's mistakes?

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: Do children learn from parent's mistakes?
By Frazzleddad (Frazzleddad) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 11:53 am: Edit

After reading through the thread regarding the mistakes parents made, I wondered if my children would recognize the mistakes I made and be less likely to repeat them as they make their life choices. While our household and parenting has a much different feel than the one I grew up in, I wonder sometimes if I am really that much different than my father...maybe I should make a list of really stupid mistakes that my children must positively never make!

By Boysmom (Boysmom) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 11:55 am: Edit


By Patient (Patient) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 12:07 pm: Edit

Hmm...we all learn by doing.
Yet, I do think that sharing our experiences, at least up to a certain point, is not a bad idea, though I guess I would couch it in terms of "I did this and as a result I (choose one) suffered health consequences/went through a lot of grief/wasted my money/wasted my time and if I had it all to do over again I would do X instead". They are going to do what they are going to do, to a large extent. But I would feel that I had let them down, if something happened that I myself had done out of stupidity, and they looked at me and said, "Why didn't you warn me this could happen?"

By Jenniferpa (Jenniferpa) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 12:08 pm: Edit

Wouldn't it be great if they did? Some kind of genetic memory would be wonderful. Unfortunately, with a few exceptions, I agree with Boysmom.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 12:08 pm: Edit

I don't know about anyone else, but often I stop and notice that the words and thoughts coming out of my mouth are my mother's. Then I hear my kids who sound much like me!

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 12:24 pm: Edit

I think my D would say she would not get her children involved is so much Ballet.AND this was my biggest mistake, one that can affect a child's health.It was seductive. First, she was liked by a large city company, this led to roles in large performances in an opera house.This in turn led to more classes. Ballet is such that by 13-14 your daughter can be going to 3 hour classes 4-5-6 days a week.So a point came in which hard questions must be asked like, do I really want all the competition, dieting, short career, low pay?So at 15 daughter stopped and concentrated on academics. The problem was the TURNOUT, this is something that doesn't really kick in UNTIL someone stops dancing.So what if she always walked like a duck, but ALL dancers do- well, the turnout destroys the hips because the legs are not mean to be positioned as such on the human body.My daughter would say, don't be seduced by glamourous roles and the association of dancers and DON'T TAKE MORE CLASSES.Because when you want to quit the problems start.
Also, now here's the kicker.I put the boys in ballet too.And they were liked and had big little roles (as they could learn combinations quickly because of learning football plays) and experienced the greesepaint and glamour of life like a Degas painting. But this time I was smart, and when they were 11 removed them cold.Of course they wanted to quit anyway as they really liked and played football and tennis.They would also say too many ballet classes is a no no for their kids.

By Garland (Garland) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 12:25 pm: Edit

I vowed I would never say: "because I said so" and by and large, I've kept to that; instead, bogging down over and over in long explanations of "why".

Don't know if that was an improvement, from my standpoint...

By Mini (Mini) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 12:40 pm: Edit

Mistakes? What mistakes?

"Oh, mother, tell your children,
Not to DO what I have done...."

Both of mine are so different from me that it would be rather pointless.

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 02:03 pm: Edit

In my experience, my kids have picked up my worst traits and flaws. Was just saying to H the other day, that our kids have gotten the worst of both of us, and I was not really kidding.

I hope kids learn from their parents mistakes. What studies I have seen, unfortunately, seem to indicate otherwise. Abused children too often become adult abusers. Having a parent in jail or in criminal activitis puts those kids at high risk for the same. Children out of wedlock have a higher number of babies the same way.

A great achievement for me would be if I were somewhat responsible for my niece and nephew and the other little ones I have taken in as well as for my own children to keep the commitment to raise their children responsibly. That would be nurtur over nature with my nurturing ending two generations of parents abandoning their children.

By Alphamom (Alphamom) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 02:46 pm: Edit

I have had many discussions with my D about the flaws of each decade, how they interacted with each other and affected her generation. She loves studying about them, and has a deeper understanding and compassion for older generations (why Grandad is so tight). Different child raising techniques of each generation are also interesting to her. She often hears me say, "did we learn NOTHING from the 70's???" So, I think, yes kids definitely should learn from our mistakes as well from good role modeling. They should know that wisdom does come with age, and pitfalls can be avoided.

By Patient (Patient) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 02:48 pm: Edit

Yikes, BHG, I have an aspiring dancer! She is more interested in jazz and hip hop, but of course ballet is the foundation of everything or so it seems. If Thedad is reading this, any thoughts? Anyone else have this experience? You've got me worried enough that I am adding it to the list of things to ask the doctor at the checkups!

By Sac (Sac) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 03:45 pm: Edit

Did we learn from our parents' mistakes? Not that my parents ever admitted mistakes. In fact, I think I tried hard to lay fewer guilt trips on my kids because of all that were piled on me, while at the same time wishing I'd had the same certainty in the rightness of my actions that my parents always seemed to have.

In the end, I think I did a better job than my parents did in acknowledging how my kids differ from me. On the other hand, I think that, just like my parents, I got blindsided by how different my kids' world is from mine at their age. The amount of money kids have,access to cars with the freedom that brings, the absence of parents from so many homes, the sexualizing of even pre-puberty, the porn on the internet, the availability of alcohol, the new drugs, misogyny in the music, the multiple ways they can constantly interact with each other that drain away family time, the shrinking of childhood, AIDS....As you can see, I could go on and on. Our kids don't learn from our mistakes because they don't LOOK like the same mistakes.

By Patient (Patient) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 03:50 pm: Edit

Sac, not necessarily true. The world is more complex and the problems may arise sooner, but the same old issues that we faced, they face: alcohol, drugs, risky unprotected sex with pregnancy and STD's (just different ones), irresponsible driving....

By Thedad (Thedad) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 04:27 pm: Edit

Patient, I just happened back into this thread...been out of town, lost a camera on Southwest Airlines, dealing with work, etc.

My D is one who did the 3 hours of class, six days a week, all through high school. She has no regrets and neither do we.

But some thoughts: unlike some, weight/food was never an issue for her. You'd probably look at her and think she was perfectly slim...for a ballet dancer, she's 7-10 pounds "overweight."

Her turnout is fairly decent and was never forced.
Most importantly, her turnout was from the hip, not the knee or the ankle. Incorrect technique is indeed something that should be watched for carefully. "Practice makes permanent."

About a year ago, she made peace with the fact that she wasn't going to go pro. But this is definitely one of those journey/destination questions. She's a bit bummed that her tentative schedule at Smith conflicts with either of the Ballet classes she could take...she's going to e-mail and see if she can audit a class one day per week.

On the broader scale, D has picked up both my virtues and my flaws. Both of us have strong personalities and TheMom is no slouch though rather quieter and with a tendency towards politeness over confrontation.

By Alphamom (Alphamom) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 04:47 pm: Edit

Another way I got my daughter's attention was predicting which one of her peers was vulnerable to mistakes. She adored one friend who was charismatic, pretty, smart, but the girl started hanging out with a girl who enjoyed the excitement of being on the fringe of the druggie crowd. My D said this girl would never, never, do anything to get into trouble. Well, this perfect girl was arrested for breaking and entering because her new friends took her along. My D still defended her friend to me, but I noticed that she no longer maintained their friendship, and focused on friends with stronger characters. Life lessons are out there, but it helps to point out examples sometimes.

By Patient (Patient) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 05:18 pm: Edit

Thanks, thedad. I will watch out for the proper turnout issue. My daughter also, at least at the moment, falls into the "slim, but not ballet thin" group--to her disgust!

By Calmom (Calmom) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 07:23 pm: Edit

On the dance issue:

As the parent of a teenager actively involved in dance- but who does not let dance rule her life -- I have to say it is an individualized decision, and parents simply should follow their child's inclinations. My d. realized that she does not have the heart of a true professional dancer because while she loves performing, rehearsing, and choreographing, she does not enjoy the barre work in class. The "true" dancers she knows are those who would rather go to class than play, who show the same amount of effort and joy in class as they do on stage. We do know a few like this, and it would probably be a mistake for their parents to try to discourage them in any way, no matter how many hours they dance per week.

My d. has always enjoyed dance, since her first class at age 4, and dance has brought her some extraordinary opportunities and experiences. But it has been a love, not an overwhelming passion, so she has always insisted in carving out time for other activities or her social life, much to the consternation of some ballet teachers.

Parents need to encourage and support their kids in their endeavors, never push. I know that I did well as a dance mom from the times I allowed my daughter to QUIT. Childhood is a time for exploration, not long-term commitment. I did have rules about short-term commitment - showing up regularly for rehearsals for an upcoming performance, completing the class for the semester enrolled, etc. - but the point is when my kid said that she was sick and tired of something, I listened.

By Thedad (Thedad) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 08:43 pm: Edit

Patient, having seen some examples far too up close, I hope your D can let go of her disgust...that way lies eating disorders.

Looking back, I think the whole college application process let me D come to the conclusion that she's a student who dances, not a dancer who goes to school.

"Dated Ballet, Married Academics."

As much as she loves ballet, she's just interested in too many things...figuring out what courses *not* to take has been a painful process for her.

By Frazzled_One (Frazzled_One) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 09:32 am: Edit

Howdy, Frazzleddad - it's a pleasure to meet someone with the same neurosis (I'm no relation, so far as I know).

On mistakes - hub and I agree that the worst life error each of us made was attending a 4th tier college. And I mean US News 4th tier, not the sliding scale 4th tier so many CC folks employ. The school's name was essentially worthless for career advancement, we never made any meaningful contacts, and the quality of the education, in my humanities-related field anyway, pretty much sucked. Each of us wound up there because we were our family's first college-bound progeny and it was thought that attending college was the primary goal. The notion that there might be appreciable differences between the Ivy League and East Podunk U. was never entertained - by us, by our families, or by the counselors at our adequate-but-no-better public high schools.

So that's what we're doing on CC - trying to insure that our kids don't make the same mistake (and I don't see that happening, given the high quality of information available). Incidentally, we each made the best of our situation and have wound up pretty darned fulfilled - hub got to pursue the profession of his dreams, as did I, pretty much. But we still don't want our kids settling for a 2nd-class education, and discuss the issue with them often. They may, and probably will, repeat every other bone-headed mistake we've ever made, but not that one.

On the ballet thing: it's the defining EC for my 2 youngest girls, who won't pursue it as a career but love it for everything else it's given them - the challenge, the discipline, the self-confidence, the opportunity to be involved with genuine artists. Ballet may aggravate certain underlying physical conditions, but the 50-something director of my d's studio is in awesome condition and still has the best turnout of anyone at the school. We do know dancers who've been injured, of course, but the most serious, life-affecting injuries came when one fell chasing her dog in the backyard and another aggravated a snowboarding injury running to class. It's always something.

By Dmd77 (Dmd77) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 09:42 am: Edit

My sister--now in her sixties--has been a dancer all her life. She switched from ballet to modern dance in the 60s (studied with Martha Graham, among others) specifically so she would be able to continue dancing past her thirties, because she saw so many dancers with stress injuries from ballet.

She now teaches dance AND injury prevention to young dancers. (She also has a day job, still. She's never quite managed to make a full-time living from dancing.)

By Patient (Patient) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 10:42 am: Edit

Thanks, thedad and all who have spoken on dance. I honestly don't think my daughter is in line for any eating disorders, but of course I am keeping a close eye on both of mine for the many dangers along the way in adolescence. The sister of one of my grammar school friends died of organ failure from anorexia. Believe me, it is on my radar.

In a way I am glad that my daughter started serious dancing only when she was 11 or 12 (started with other things besides ballet and then included ballet at 12)--because that pretty much assures that she will not be, or even aspire to be, a professional. She is, however, extremely good and currently is being sought after by two different dance schools. That dilemma of choice is anxiety enough! I just hope to keep seeing that smile that lights up her face when she performs--no one can doubt her joy at what she is doing. And calmom, I think you have a good point. I think that walking that fine line between having children keep commitments versus leaving an activity when the time is right is one of the more difficult jobs we have.

By Thedad (Thedad) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 05:05 pm: Edit

There are always exceptions: Paloma Herrera started very late, something like 14. As it is, 11/12 isn't necessarily *too* late. Some of the accommodations the hips and some muscle must make for turnout generally has to get set before advanced puberty. Just FYI.

But as long as a daughter is enjoying the journey, I wouldn't worry about the exit point.

By Mini (Mini) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 11:39 pm: Edit

My d.'s don't dance, but my young one is a very serious gymnast. It has been interesting that in the world of gymnasts, anorexia is OUT. Wait til you see this year's Olympia team - there's not a skinny one to be seen. Big, muscular shoulders, big thighs, broader hips are now in. Nutritional counseling to prevent eating disorders is, in many gyms, mandatory. It's amazing what a decade can do.

My bet is that change in the dance world will come more slowly, but I wouldn't be surprised to see it happen.

(As for youth risks, of course data is just data - but teen pregnancy is at its lowest rate in 3 decades, teen births lowest rate in 4 decades, youth violence rates lowest in 25 years. The big thing that is up in colleges these days is alcohol - the data are extraordinarily shocking, and seem to impact the prestigious colleges (especially in the northeast) as much or more than the publics. A fully 25% of all alcohol consumed in the U.S. is now consumed by drinkers under the age of 21)

By Patient (Patient) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 11:53 pm: Edit

There are two well-known ballet companies in San Francisco--the San Francisco Ballet, and Smuin Ballet. There is a noticeable difference between the physiques (as well as the techniques, since Smuin employs a lot of tap, jazz, modern, as well as classical ballet) of the ballerinas in the two companies...the Smuin ballet being more accepting of some slightly more rounded figures. So perhaps there is some room for variation in dance, too.

Looking forward to the Olympics!

By Kantgitrite101 (Kantgitrite101) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 06:56 pm: Edit

I think I learned from my mother's mistakes. She was always open and honest with me and my sister about the things she did as a kid. It's helped me make informed decisions about the things that I want to do. It has stopped me from experimenting with heavy drugs, I never drank until I was 20, I also smoked my first cig at 20. My awarness of the things that ruined my parents relationship is what keeps me grounded. My mom also never pryed into our lives. I've been my own grown up for many years and therefore am self sufficent.

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 09:03 pm: Edit

A few weeks ago I was talking with a friend about her son's decision to enlist in the Marine Corps after HS graduation. He graduated from a prestigious HS and did well academically and on all other accounts. He had always been interested in the military, but had originally thought he would pursue the "military academy" or ROTC route. I asked her why she thought he had changed his mind. She told me he hadn't articulated, but she felt, that he just felt he could no longer compete with the perfection he perceived in his father!

When kids see adults doing well, I think they fail to realize that we look competent much of the time because we only do what we are good at! That is the luxury of adulthood. I think if we don't let them see our flaws, our mistakes and how we cope with them, we are not preparing them for the real world. I am not just talking about big ticket mistakes, but little day to day things as well.

Effective teachers can also influence kids ability to deal with mistakes. I knew my daughter would have a brilliant 3rd grade year when she came home on the 1st day of school and told me she had already learned the most important thing in 3rd grade...not division, not cursive...but how to make a mistake!

I guess, therefore, that the best thing kids can learn from their parents mistakes is that it is okay to make mistakes, and most important to learn how to not repeat them.

By Believersmom (Believersmom) on Tuesday, August 10, 2004 - 02:54 pm: Edit

Don't know if anyone is still reading this thread but wanted to share with parents something I discovered actually helped my D in this area.

When D hit 8th grade this past year, I noticed she was encountering some experiences, especially with relationships, that I had encountered in my teen years. It was painful to watch. However, whenever I would try to initiate a conversation about this, I got an attitude of "you couldn't possibly understand." So I made her an offer to read my jr. high journal.

She was shocked I'd let her read my "diary" and she eagerly accepted. It was entertaining for both of us and now I have credibility to talk with her about what "I wish I'd known then." She of course will still make mistakes, some her own and some that I've made too; but by and large she comes to me for input on the big stuff and mostly tries my suggestions first.

Robyrm's point about our kids knowing it is okay to make mistakes is so important too. I believe they need to see how an adult handles it when they make a mistake.

My two cents.

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