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10 Ways to Teach Children to Accept their Mistakes

parents_with_childNeither of my sons enjoy making mistakes.  Let’s face it, who does?  I see a lot of myself in my sons when they run and hide in their rooms, burying their heads in their pillows or turning beet red upon doing something “incorrectly.”  I have come a long way with accepting my own mistakes, but once in a while I can still get a big blush going after a particularly irritating error.  But, like it or not, making mistakes is an integral part of learning.   In the article “I messed up, Mom & Dad!  10 Ways to Teach Children to Embrace Their Mistakes,”, Dr. Robyn Silverman gives ten pointers on how to teach your children about having a positive mistake-making attitude:

  1. Encourage healthy risk-taking.  Talk to your children about try new things outside of their comfort zone while providing them with support.  One of my favorite sayings that I heard a long time ago is “Try it!  It might become your new favorite!”  As a side-note – if you as a parent sense inherent danger, you of course would intervene.
  2. Applaud the effort and character rather than just the result.  Focusing just on the A+ paper or the goal in soccer could amplify your child’s fear of trying and failing.  Instead, celebrate your child’s courage and persistence for trying something new or staying focused until their job was done.
  3. Let your children know that mistakes are normal and an important part of learning.  Let them know that it is not only okay to make mistakes, they can make you wiser.  As your child what the mistake taught them.
  4. Share your mistakes with them.  You can share mistakes you made when you were younger, how you handled them, and what the mistakes taught you.  Show your child that adults make mistakes too, but can still be successful and confident people.
  5. Apologize and show accountability in action.  One of the most powerful things we can do when we make a mistake it to show our children how to be accountable for our actions.  By apologizing to those affected and doing what we can do to fix the problem created, we show our children that everyone is in charge of “cleaning up their own messes.”  We can teach our children that making mistakes is not the end of the world, and it is within our power to make things better.
  6. Teach them to look back.  Younger children especially are not yet very skilled in answering “why” questions, so after a mistake is made, asking “why” often results in a fruitless answer.  Instead, ask two “what” questions: “What did you do?” (so they can claim responsibility) and “What happened when you did that?” (so they can understand that their actions caused a reaction).  When they can verbalize these things, they are closer to becoming accountable.
  7. Teach them to look forward.  Teach your children that the mistake isn’t the end, it’s the beginning of learning.  For example, if your child gets a bad grade on a test, maybe they need to study longer, get extra help, or study differently.  Help them brainstorm different ways of fixing the mistake.  Ask “What are you going to do?” and “By when are you going to do it?” to help them stay accountable.
  8. Ensure that they have an accountability partner.  People of all ages work best when they are accountable to others.  You can be your child’s accountability partner, or it could be someone else they know well, such as an older sibling, grandparent, coach, or mentor.  Ask your child “How will your accountability partner know that you did what you said you were going to do?”  Have them tell, text, write, call, or check something off a list when their task has been completed.
  9. Create the teachable moment if you have to do it.  The older children get without making mistakes, the bigger an impact it can make when they finally do.  We want our children to make mistakes when the stakes are low so they know what to do when they are older and the stakes are higher.  Allow your children to make the small mistakes.
  10. Thank them for admitting their mistake and coming to you.  As I’m unraveling my oldest son from his cocoon of blankets on his bed after he’s made a mistake, I remind myself that it can be tough – very tough – to admit a wrongdoing.  So, when your child does come to you with the truth, commend them.  By doing this, you are setting up an expectation that you want them to come to you when they need help or when things aren’t going right, and you will be there for them.

Life is messy.  Teaching your children how to embrace their mistakes may also be quite messy.  We may even make mistakes in the process (providing us with even better teaching opportunities!)  Kidtelligent also can provide you with additional teaching and parenting tips.  With the Kidtelligent Assessment, will be given tools to help parent teach your children based on their own unique personality types and interests.   To learn more about Kidtelligent, go to www.kidtelligent.com, and follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Kidtelligent.

Sarah is a guest blogger for Kidtelligent.  She is a soccer-playing, travel-loving, poetry-writing wife to a “go-getter” husband and mother to two high-spirited, sweet, and enthusiastic boys.