by Rebecca Temsen, guest blogger for Dr. Carol. Originally published here.
The old adage holds true: We learn from our mistakes. Making mistakes is especially how children learn. Unfortunately, too many kids (and even some adults) have never learned the value of making a mistake. I plead guilty too.
Too many fail to realize successful people find new routes to their goals and they don’t let setbacks derail them. Succeeding ultimately depends on sticking with their efforts and not letting setbacks hold them down, especially with kids.
Here are some tips for helping children recognize that mistakes don’t necessarily mean failure but instead can be learning opportunities in disguise.
1. Stress that it’s okay to make mistakes
The very first step is helping kids realize that mistakes aren’t the end of the world is to simply say, “It’s okay to make a mistake.” By giving kids permission to fail and helping them recognize that mistakes can be positive learning experiences, we are opening the door to success later in life. Let them know that even the most successful people makes mistakes. When is the last time you told your child, “It’s okay to make a mistake in our house?”
2. Admit your own mistakes
Whether you know it or not, your child sees you as all-knowing and all-powerful. Obviously, grownups make mistakes, too, but too often we hide them from our children and spouses. Don’t let the ‘duck syndrome‘ take control of your life. Admit your errors to your kids. It helps them recognize that everyone, even Superhero Dad or Wonder Woman Mom, mess up sometimes — and that’s okay. Keep in mind, though, that they’re also watching to see how you handle failure.
3. Show acceptance for mistakes
Whenever your child goofs up, show your support with both your nonverbal reactions and your words. The fastest way your children will learn to toss the idea that mistakes are the most horrible thing in the world is to allow them to feel their parents’ accepting responses to their errors.
4. Tell your children how you overcame the obstacle
When you make an error, tell your child not only your mistake but also what you learned from it. If, for example, your dinner menu was a failure, first admit the mistake to your family quickly before they tell you themselves, and then say what you learned from the mistake. Here’s what this would look like:
“I sure messed up this recipe. I learned that I should always read the whole recipe first before adding the broccoli.”
Did your children witness you running late for work? Here’s how that conversation might go:
“I was late for work because I lost my keys. I learned I need to put them in the same place every time I come home so that I can find them when I need them.”
Use this template for your own conversations with your kids. When your child makes a mistake, ask him or her, “What was your mistake?” Follow up by saying, “What did you learn?”
Make mistakes be acceptable in your house. Stress that everyone — adults and children — make mistakes and that no one is perfect. Mistakes are how we learn. Emphasize over and over: “Don’t worry about your mistakes. Instead, think about what you’ll do differently next time.”
If we help kids learn from them, mistakes can be valuable lessons. Once your children realize failures aren’t the end of the world, they’ll be more likely to hang in there and not give up.