Parenting: I'm not the math parent

December 2, 2011

Luckily, all three of my boys have apparently inherited their Dad's math gene and all were advanced in their school math placements. That means that once they reach a certain grade, I'm useless when it comes to homework help. But by admitting my weakness, will it discourage them from working out difficult problems? After all, I've done OK in life without having taken Calculus, so why should they keep taking more advanced classes?

It's a question that goes further than scholastic coursework. The real question is whether parents should admit weaknesses, or mistakes, to their children. Further, should parents ever apologize to their children? Does that undermine a parent's authority? Personally, I think it's OK for parents to admit their mistakes and weaknesses to their children. It teaches the lesson that none of us is perfect, but despite that, we can be valued and loved.

Clinical Psychologist Emuna Braverman goes further by writing that when parents apologize to their children, they're actually teaching them important lessons: (

"Our children are watching us constantly (it's a little intimidating) for clues on how to behave. We have to demonstrate compassion and humility. They need to know that we are real human beings with strengths and weaknesses (not every detail of every weakness needs to be revealed!) who struggle every day to … be a little better. If they don't see our struggle, they will be overwhelmed and devastated by their own. If we don't acknowledge our weaknesses, how can they?"

John Gottman, author of "Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child," concurs, writing, "It is so important for an adult to apologize because it shows the child it's OK to make mistakes and say you are sorry. When you say, 'I shouldn't have done that,' your child will have a rock-solid sense that her feelings matter to the people who are most important in her life." (

Bottom line, some people are good at some things, other people are good at other things. I'm a better cook . My husband's better at helping with math homework. All of us make mistakes. By owning up to our own strengths and weaknesses, I think we can teach our children to do their best, and be forgiving of themselves and others when they fall short of perfection.

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