I am usually well aware when I make a mistake. The last thing I want is to have someone making a big deal about what I have done wrong. It would be frustrating if every time I messed up, someone was there to point it out.
Now, think about our children. They make mistakes. Are we constantly pointing them out? Do we constantly bring up their past mistakes? Do we confuse teaching them and raising them with nagging them about the mistakes they make?
Mistakes are part of life. Not only have we all made mistakes, but we will make more. The important part about mistakes, is to learn from them.
Learning from our mistakes is a vital part of growing up. In fact, research shows us that kids learn more from making mistakes, then taking the easy route and getting everything correct all the time.
We should keep the following in mind when it comes to our kids and their “learning adventures” (aka, mistakes).
- First, evaluate ourselves. Are we setting a good example?
How do we handle our own mistakes. Do we swear, sulk, or yell? Do we blame our mistakes on everyone else? Always remember that kids will do, for the most part, what their parents do. We are teaching them by example. What type of example are we setting?
- Have a sense of humor. Laughter is good medicine.
Mistakes are a part of life. We need to be patient and understanding with our children. We are here to help teach them so that they will want to make good choices. When mistakes happen, we are here to help them understand and work through the bad choice. These are life skills that when learned young, will help them forever.
- Be patient, show love. Don’t sigh and scoff.
These are our children. We love them. They are learning and growing and trying to do their best. They are people with feelings and ideas, and concerns and worries, just like us. Remember we were kids once too. When our 2 year old spills her cereal for the third time in one morning, scoffing and sighing and complaining about the mistake will only hurt your relationship with your child. Laugh, clean up, and move on. Never use the mistake to make your child feel bad because you had to exert effort to clean up the mess.
- Don’t expect perfection, or imply that you expect perfection. Praise effort.
Don’t set low expectations. Instead, recognize that no one is perfect and we want our kids to do the best that they can. We don’t want our children to be afraid of making mistakes. When kids are afraid of making mistakes, it keeps them from trying at all. It can also lead them to keep secrets from us and hurt our communication with them. They won’t communicate with us honestly because they will be afraid of getting in trouble. Expecting perfection is not realistic. We are not perfect. What makes us think we can put that type of pressure on our children.
- Regardless of the mistakes, your LOVE IS UNCONDITIONAL. Never withhold affection or a hug.
Never, ever, EVER, withhold love because your child has made a mistake. Our love is unconditional, regardless of the mistake or mishap. Fewer mistakes does not mean we show more love, and children should never feel they have to earn our love. SO… when your child messes up and then runs to you for a hug, don’t push them away.
- Don’t rescue children from their mistakes. Help kids focus on the solution. Re-focus.
Don’t pretend the mistakes are fake, or didn’t happen. They did. Instead, understand that mistakes can help us grow and make us better. As parents it is not our job to rescue them when they make a mistake, but instead to help them focus on a solution to the problem so they can avoid making the same mistake again. This also means that we acknowledge that OUR kids mess up, and refrain from blaming everyone else.
- Encourage kids to take responsibility. Don’t blame others.
It is important to teach our children to take responsibility for the things they do wrong. We don’t want them to grow up blaming everything on “us” or “them”.
- Did you ever make a mistake, do share, with your kids. What happened. What did you learn? Let them know you can relate and understand.
We are not suggesting unloading all of our mistakes on our kids. There are plenty of things we need to keep to ourselves. But…where appropriate (use good judgement), use personal examples to teach our children. Focus on what you learned and how you felt. Talk about the consequences. Our children will feel like we really do understand what they are going through, because we have been there ourselves. It is easy for children to see their parents as perfect and themselves as imperfect. Perfection is tricky. It is impossible to live up to because it is not possible.
- Uphold the consequences. Don’t give in.
Most mistakes have natural consequences. (If you don’t study for a test, you will most likely get a bad grade.) Then there are mistakes where we as parents will have to enforce a consequence and follow through. Make sure the consequence is fair and follow through.
- Avoid pointing out their past mistakes. Stay in the moment.
Part of our job as parents is NOT to continually point out what our kids have done wrong. We can usually let the past, be in the past. If we continually bring up past mistakes, our kids will never feel like they can get out from under what they have done wrong, and it can begin to define them. We don’t want that. Think about it, why would our kids want to do better if they think we will just point out the mistakes they have made in the past?
- Praise them for the courage to admit their mistakes. Thank them.
We want our children to feel comfortable telling us when they have made a mistake, and admit if they have done wrong. Thank them for being honest and admitting when they have done something wrong.
- Teach children what to do when they make a mistake. How to right the wrong?
Do they need to apologize, clean up, fix, or replace. Teaching kids what to do when they do wrong will give them the tools they need to handle future mistakes. There is a difference here between forcing, encouraging, and teaching.
- Help them find the positive. Is there a lesson to learn?
We can learn something from every mistake. Work together to find out what the lesson is.