As adults we tend to get upset over mistakes. What we don’t realize as parents is that our kids hear what we say and watch our non verbal behaviors, and every time we get upset at ourselves for a blunder, we are teaching our kids that it’s not OK to make a mistake. This couldn’t be further from the truth: We should teach our kids and ourselves that mistakes are teachable moments, an opportunity to learn and find the best path to a solution. It’s time that we change our perspective on mistakes and admit we make them, admit it’s OK, and then move forward with the knowledge we just learned. The start of a new school year, as kids are being tested in all forms of academics, athletics and other ways, is a perfect time to do this.
Here are some tips on how to teach kids about mistakes
We all make mistakes.
Yes, everyone makes mistakes including Mom and Dad. They are a part of life. In discussions with your kids, give some examples of mistakes you have made, and explain what you have learned from them.
Tell your kids when they make mistakes but keep trying that they are winners. Hard work is all about the effort.
Make your own definition of success.
Don’t let the media portray success is all about money, fame and beauty. Kids need to know there is much more to success and that we all define success differently. Let your kids know money doesn’t equal happiness.
The reward of the Journey.
Accomplishment is not about winning or losing, it’s about persistence and the journey to get there. Teach your kids all the good that comes out of mistakes. I met some great friends out of my biggest mistakes, and I learned how strong I was with each and every blunder. I also learned to laugh at myself, which is so important. In fact, one recent study found that self-deprecating humor leads to greater happiness and overall well-being.
Leading to your true path.
I made lots of career mistakes but they all led me to where I should be and where I am now. This lesson is especially relevant for teens and twentysomethings. As a college professor, I see a lot of young adults so hard on themselves for choosing the wrong college, the wrong major, etc. It’s important that they know everything is going to be OK. You learn from every decision, and end up in the right direction; it’s all about the big picture.
Mistakes don’t define who you are.
One mistake is just that. Don’t dwell on one bad decision.
Talk about it.
Use dinner or other shared family time to discuss mistakes and encourage them to work through them. Make sure your child knows that you believe that you try and try again till you succeed. Mistakes do not equal quitting.
They want your approval.
Young kids (up to puberty) want your acceptance and approval. If you tell your kids that it’s fine to make a mistake and make light of it, they will feel better about mistakes. Don’t pressure your child about making mistakes. Kids feel stress.
Perfectionism is unrealistic.
Explain to your kids there is no such thing as perfection and trying to reach it is an unrealistic expectation that sets you up for failure.
Teach your kids to be resilient.
Teach them to laugh at their mistakes, to write down what they learned from their mistakes, discuss ways they can correct their mistake.
Above all, follow your own advice and really accept that it’s OK to make mistakes. Remember, kids are visual learners. The best way to let them know that mistakes are OK is to show them through your own actions.
Diane Lang is a Therapist, Life Coach, Career Coach, Educator and Author with an expertise in multiple mental health, lifestyle and parenting needs. Her website is www.dlcounseling.com