As parents, teachers, and caretakers it can be hard to watch children go through the process of making mistakes or experiencing failures. Being the helpers that we are, we might want to prevent mistakes from happening or fix them quickly when they arise. However, children experience many benefits when they are able to take risks and make mistakes. These include being able to: build strong resiliency skills, stick with projects longer, explore and think of new options, hold less anxiety or fear around making mistakes, and try things that may be new or difficult.
So how can we begin to embody a stance that encourages and supports the understanding that mistakes and failures are worth making?
Try out a new frame of mind.
Perhaps we could begin with pushing back on the belief that mistakes and failure have to be seen and labeled as bad or things to avoid. What if instead we saw them as opportunity to learn and try new things? Thomas Edison was famous for saying, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. By shifting the way we think about mistakes, we can approach them with more curiosity and see them as a natural part of the learning process. We can inspire our children to think like scientists who see “mistakes or failures” as just more evidence on what doesn’t work to inform the next step.
Replace “Be careful, no, stop”.
As adults we have spent a great deal of time learning and making our share of mistakes. At times, this can make us “fortune tellers” of the possible dangers or potential for failures that may be ahead for our kids, whether it’s climbing a difficult rock or writing their first report paper. As someone who has told kids to “be careful”, “no don’t do that”, and “here let’s fix that”, I went in search for other ways to support kids while not stifling the important needs to explore, try things out and learn on their own.
Backwoodsmama suggests that we can help our kids foster a sense of awareness and encourage problem solving through our questions and support as they move into difficult terrain. For example, instead of saying, “Be careful!” we can bring awareness to our kids about the situation by saying, “Notice how there’s moss on that big rock that can make it slippery” and then support them with questions that elicit problem solving skills such as, “What’s your plan on how you will climb this rock?” I love this approach as it allows us to scaffold and support our children while also not shying away from what be hard or an important learning opportunity.
To read her full blog and get more ideas visit: https://www.backwoodsmama.com/2018/02/stop-telling-kids-be-careful-and-what-to-say-instead.html
Children watch us so intently to learn about how to move about this world. If we approach our mistakes with put downs, “Ugh! That was so stupid!”, or avoid them “Oh, I’m not good at that I don’t want to look silly” we are sending messages to the kids in our lives that mistakes and the possibility of failure are things to avoid (even if that’s not our intent).
The Child Mind Institute highlights that we can be powerful models to our kids by talking about our mistakes/failures, how we felt, and how we handled our disappointment. These discussions teach our children that failures happen to all of us and we can bounce back from them. If we find that we are hard on ourselves when mistakes or failures arise, we can try a more compassionate stance by thinking, “What would I say to my best friend if they failed?” This in turn will show our kids positive self-love and care while also giving ourselves that kindness that we deserve.
Flex your failure muscles.
It takes practice to learn how to fail and recover from failure, just like it takes practice to learn a new skill. GoZen has created a fun way to help kids and adults alike get more comfortable with failure as a way to boost our resiliency muscles and stay open to taking risks and trying new things.
Find the EPIC FAIL game here: https://www.gozen.com/help-kids-fail-better/
Our mistakes and failures don’t define us. There is so much else that makes us awesome! However, this can be difficult to remember when we have experienced failure. As we have talked about in previous blogs, our minds are hardwired to hold onto and point out the negative so we have to work extra hard to not let them take over.
Affirmations can be a wonderful way to build strong/positive self-talk and resiliency to use when times are tough. Here are a couple of my favorites: “When I fail, I say I can’t do it YET and try again”, “I can do hard things”, “I stick with things and don’t give up easily”. These affirmations can be what kids say to themselves and they can also be great things to say to our kids to keep them motivated.
To learn more about affirmations and introducing them to your child visit: http://ripplekindness.org/why-affirmations-are-important-for-children/
We would love to hear from you! Let us know if you tried any of these and what you thought!
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Image: © Elena Nichizhenova | Dreamstime.com