Regrets On the Other Side of the Coin

I’ve written before about regrets, most recently in my September 6th post, Do I Really Need to Say it Again?

“If you show hypocrisy -- even to animals-- th...
“If you show hypocrisy — even to animals– they know, oh my owner isn’t really sincere.” – His Holiness the Great 14th Dalai Lama, Speaking on Ethics, Delhi University, India, 3/21/2012 (Photo credit: Wonderlane)

I tend to approach the issue from the assertion that I refused to dwell on regrets because the past is what made me who I am and brought me to where I am today. To regret those things would be to regret my life and myself, to some degree.

But there is another dimension to the concept of regrets in how we use them to improve the future of mankind, which is surely part of “Humanifest Destiny”. We do this by trying to keep our kids – or others’ kids – from repeating our mistakes in the interest of securing for themselves a better future; because you can’t trivialize the future with the threat of regret the way you can the present and past with its admission. So rather than appearing hypocritical I would rebrand “regrets” as “life experience better off avoided”. After all, we have all seen an episode of some television show in which the parents are made to look like hypocrites after forbidding or punishing something that they in fact did themselves as kids – drinking, partying, drugs, sex, church, what have you – it makes an excellent TV trope because a) there is an opportunity for comedy wherever you can turn the tables, and b) people can get some idea of how to deal with this issue.

How do you tell your children not to repeat your mistakes without looking like a hypocrite? Man, that’s a good question, and I can’t wait to figure it out. Maybe it will sound something like, “been there, done that, bad idea.”

Either way I can’t say today what the subject matter will be with any certainty, because you can’t just give your kid a list of regrets as though they’re a computer to be programed; you’ll make them neurotic doing that. You have to spoonfeed it as the situation demands and hope that common sense will take care of the rest, at least for the time being.

What do you think? Have you dealt with this conundrum before? How did it play out for you, and did you or would you handle it differently the next time it happened?

This post was prompted by today’s Daily Post prompt.


  1. Nice post brother, I’ m interested to hear what Lance @ has on this issue.
    I compltely agree…dwelling on the past/past mistakes is a dangerous thing.truthfully, with all the consequences suffered I am grateful for not the mistakes I made, but what I learned from them…..I would not change one …they made me who i am and led my life to the place it is today…a good loving place.
    Liquid Poet and I were actually talking about this last night regarding our future child….I am a big believer in complete honesty (he is as well)…for our child…we ideally want to be completely honest about our pasts…but I also worry about the “Well, you did it’s”…. we want better for children…do not want to see them suffer..or make the same mistakes as we did….on the same note…i am grateful for what I learned from my mistakes….a cunundrum….im tweeting this to lance hopefully he will chime in…love you brother.

    • I’m on board with the truthfulness thing too, as long as it’s age-appropriate, for my daughter and future kids. I think what’s really challenging is how far can the “no regrets” thing throw the raising strategy out of whack, they might think misunderstand what “no regrets” implies. You get what I mean? You have a good handle on it though.

  2. There’s no concrete answer to these questions. I have 3 daughters – 17, 10, and 9. And since my kids as well as others are all individually different, how they respond to communications from their parents is a crapshoot.

    We talk A LOT in our house. We talk about talking. Then we talk some more. My teenaged daughter knows almost every bad thing I’ve ever done, especially with drugs and alcohol. I know she considers my thoughts, as well as her mother’s before making her own choices because she tells us, so.

    You don’t “turn the tables” on kids or people younger than you. They’re too smart for that, even the dumb ones. What you do is offer honesty, kindness and less judgement than what they’d face outside of your influence.

    The only conundrum is not communicating with them and then wondering if you’d done enough.

    • See, I really appreciate that input because you are there right now. Thank you for that. That’s the kind of parents Mme. Ross and I want to be.

      (Oh and by turning the tables I was referring to where on TV the parents are like “you’re so in trouble!” And then someone else is like, “I remember you did that when you were their age” and the the kids are like “OOH!!” You know?)

  3. No kids here, so I can’t relate.

    I can say I have screwed up more times than not in my life. And, I wouldn’t do a thing differently if it meant ending up anywhere other than exactly where I am.

  4. I think the worst thing a parent can say, and no, I don’t speak from the parental side of things, but rather remember it from the child’s perspective is: “Because I said so”. …. or ….. “I know better, I’m the adult.”
    Talk about a cop out and a load of trash.

    I think your approach seems to make sense … apart from when it’s something as blatantly obvious – like don’t stick your fingers in the blender! But that is strictly from a literal point of view, of course.

      • Lol …. actually I use the “do what I say, not as I do line” but only on my friends or adult family. Never on a child. And most often, but not always, I’m joking about some dumb thing or other that I have done myself. Yeah, that is a sucky line. And omg – “the brought in/take out bit” – SO lame. I agree with you on this.

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