I can’t recall the number of times I’ve heard my parents or anyone older and wiser say— “Learn from your mistakes.” While most people try to avoid making mistakes, it is, unfortunately, inevitable. Some mistakes make us stronger, having learnt a valuable lesson or two. In time, we earn the privilege of giving the same advice to our younger generation. But, some mistakes leave a dark cloud hanging above our heads (yes! thunderstorms and all…), forever scarred and afraid. While we instinctively try to protect our little ones from the aftermath of a mistake, we unintentionally take away the opportunity for them to learn essential life lessons. So, while we have to learn to allow our children to make mistakes, how can we help them make the most out of it?
Here are some tips that can be put into practice right away.
1. Acknowledge that you don’t expect them to be perfect.
Children react strongly to what we think of them. While you’re yelling for what feels like the one-hundredth-thousand-time for your little one to stop jumping off the bed, we know you’ll find it hard to believe when we say your opinions matter much to your child.
Let them know that your love for them is unconditional, regardless of their mistakes or lapses in judgment. You are, after all, your child’s first and biggest fan! Though tough love is sometimes necessary, let them know that they will always have your support. Be it a reassuring hug or a few positive words of encouragement.
2. Don’t rescue kids from their mistakes. Instead, focus on the solution.
It can be tough watching your little one stumble but let’s face it, we won’t always be holding their hand. Watch with pride as your little fighter learns how to get back up on their own (cue for tissues).
Provide examples of mistakes you made, the consequences, and how you were able to learn from them. Knowing that their very first Superhero has made similar mistakes and was able to learn from it would mean the world to them. Along the way, you might realise that you could also learn from your child’s mistakes.
3. Teach them to take responsibility for their mistakes instead of blaming others.
Pointing the finger at someone else is an easy way out, especially when mummy or daddy is stomping in anger towards you. While we shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss that there is a possibility that it wasn’t your child’s fault, acknowledging that sometimes, it does take two-to-tango will allow her to see things from a different point of view.
4. Avoid pointing out your child’s past mistakes. Instead, focus on the one at hand.
Put your hands down if you’re guilty of this! A-ha…
Well, I most certainly am. It’s tough but pointing out their mistakes, again and again, would only spur negative feelings and often, damaging their self-esteem along the way. A reminder to self to move forward and take things one step at a time.
5. Give your child a pat on the back for their ability to admit their mistakes.
Have you ever caught your child quickly glancing in your direction when she has accidentally spilled her milk? Then when she thinks you’re not looking, immediately grabs something to conceal the evidence like a sloppy crime scene from CSI?
Resist the temptation to raise your voice. Instead, try to use appropriate consequences like explaining this could attract unwanted pest to our home. Clean the mess up together to re-enforce point number 2.
6. Praise your child for their efforts and bravery to overcome setbacks.
When your child excitedly tells you how he helped solve a problem at school, praise him for it, perhaps, let him tell you a little bit more about how he was able to solve the problem. After all, we all know how our little ones love to tell a story.
7. Teach your child to apologise when their mistakes have hurt others.
Saying sorry can be tough, even for adults. Take the time to help your child understand what he has done wrong. Give him the time to think and gather his emotion. Perhaps, role-playing might help but make sure he understands what he has done wrong before apologising.
8. Help your child look at the good side of getting things wrong!
Nobody likes to be wrong, but it is something we all must learn to accept. Help them see that there is always a silver lining. Use a book such as Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg to help demonstrate this and kickstart a healthy conversation about mistakes.
Young or old, we all know that mistakes are bound to happen. Guess our wiser folks are right, after all, the mistake should not be the focus, but the lesson learnt should be most important.