I am writing a paper on my parents and how their separation/divorce cultivated my upbringing. Within the paper, I claim how in some ways they make "missteps" in raising us to keep the hopefully convey the message that they did not f*** up but it was a learning experience for all of us. What is a nicer way to say misstep rather than rudely saying they made mistakes (because I absolutely do not view it as that)?

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    The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce is a very insightful book about "best-case scenario" divorces (like your parents', where everyone tries to be polite) and their effects on the children (such as you). The effects linger into adulthood. The book has several euphemisms for "mistake", "regret", "learning experience", et cetera.
    – Jasper
    Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 18:56
  • I agree with user3169 that "misstep" might be your best bet. Oftentimes, beating around the bush is actually more "rude" because it's like the elephant in the room. People might feel like, "Why don't you just say what it is you want to say." In the meantime, what we would really want to avoid is passing judgment on people for their mistakes and I think "misstep" does this succinctly and efficiently. Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 10:31

2 Answers 2


They used "poor judgement".

They "had a lack of experience" (or "were inexperienced").

They "didn't know any better".

They "tried their best" (but ...)

They were "misguided".

They "relied on bad advice".

They "weren't always the best of parents" (or "they weren't always the best people") but ...

And others.

Each of these carries some nuance so it does depend on what exactly you want to say about them, and the tone you want to take in your paper.


Actually I think "misstep" is probably the best word to use (without additional details about the circumstances).

In life we face many decisions, and the choice is to move forward (step) in one direction or another. The wrong choice becomes the "misstep", and the right one could be "a step in the right direction".

After many disappointments, they finally took a step in the right direction.

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