Should we shield our kids from regrets?

In the last week, I’ve encountered two scenarios where the parents were desperately trying to shield their children from “having regrets”.

The first was fictional, in the debut episode of Big Little Lies season two: this is not a plot spoiler in any way, shape or form, but in this episode, Reese Witherspoon’s character blows her lid because her daughter wants to ditch going to college, with grand plans to instead work for a social housing start-up.

Her mother won’t have it: “You must go to college! You’ll regret not going! You’ll mess up your life!”


The second example came in the brilliant but brutal book Fake by journalist Stephanie Wood. She discusses her romance with her college boyfriend, and her mother is fretful, ranting, “I don’t want you to have any regrets!”

Two mothers, both wanting to shield their children from having any regrets.

But why? What is so bad about regrets? And what’s the alternative… to always take the safe path and never take a risk?

How boring and uneventful.

Mistakes represent our growth, learning and evolution.

Now to be clear, I’m not talking about the really big ones; the tragic mistakes that destroy people’s lives.

But things like not going to university? That’s not a game-changer. You can always enrol when you’re older.

Or falling in love with the wrong guy? God, yes, your heart will be broken. But you’ll learn so much about yourself and your capacity to survive, evolve and thrive at the other side of it.

Here’s one of my big regrets: I once signed a contract to buy an apartment in a CBD suburb. Before the contract went unconditional, I discovered that the “pet friendly” line the real estate agent had given me wasn’t true. I could either get rid of my two beloved pooches, or cancel the deal.

I walked away from the property – which has since gone up in value by half a million dollars.

Would I like to be able to turn back time and make a different decision? Possibly! I’d love my bank balance to be $500,000 fatter, and I’m sure my parents could have taken our dogs if we’d begged them enough.

However, I’m not going to waste any time worrying about decisions made years ago.

After all, if I had purchased that property, who knows what chain of events would have been kicked off? Would I be in the exact situation I am now, on the Gold Coast in a house I love… or would my life have veered off in a different path?

Who knows. Which is why I choose not to have regrets – and instead believe that there are no wrong decisions in life, just different directions.

This is the lesson I’ll be teaching my kids: not to create a life free of regret, but to learn from them. Because I reckon a life without regrets is a life not lived.