Making (and fixing) mistakes and even failing are a critical part of building resilience. However, how kids think about their mistakes makes the difference between becoming more resilient or vulnerable. Even if kids THINK they can learn from their mistakes, try again, try harder, fix it, and/or move on, their brain automatically reacts differently; they are motivated to keep trying. AND, their brain actually becomes stronger to learn new things and to cope with new challenges.
If, however, kids think their mistakes are because of some inherent personal flaw, they become discouraged. Even in areas they were previously confident in. When they become discouraged, they do not want to keep trying and will likely give up. As a result, they lose out on the opportunity to learn and practice new skills. And, their brain isn’t strengthened.
“Whether you think you can or think you can’t— you’re right.”Henry Ford
Mistakes and failures are temporary
Kids need to learn that mistakes and failing are not the final destination. Failing is a temporary step in the process of learning. Often times, it is the
Talking about failure differently is helpful in changing kids’ perspectives of failure. “Failing forward” reminds us that failure is part of the hero’s journey. Revisit hero stories where they made a mistake or even failed. All heroes experience failure, or setbacks. Capitalize on those stories to show how the hero didn’t let the failure stop them. What did they learn? How did they grow? How did they fix their mistake? How did they end up triumphing?
You can also use your kids’ experiences. For example, if they play video games, they often fail when they first learn it. But, through practice (and even researching/reading about tips to get through a level), kids become master gamers.
Take the example of falling off the bike when they were learning to ride? What did they learn? How did they fix it? Perhaps that they needed a little more speed. Or that they needed to shift a little to the right to balance better. Certainly they learned that getting back up and practicing was critical to becoming more confident and mastering bike riding. And for sure that the initial fall, and even the tenth fall, was only temporary – they eventually learned to ride without falling.
Mistakes are essential for learning
When kids interpret their mistakes differently, they can start to see other possibilities. And reduce their stress.
With time, patience, and practice, they will eventually get it. Kids are so often focused on achieving success and being perfect the first time that they fear making a mistake. But they can never learn to their full potential without it. They learn one more way of how not to do something. And one more way to try something differently. And, most importantly, how to fix the mistake.
Let them make mistakes
Watch out for those opportunities where you jump in to avoid your kids from making a mistake and falling down. Let them fall. They will get up. They will learn. And they will be all the more confident for it.
You can also have a mistake of the day where everyone in the family shares a mistake they made or something hard they tried. Modelling our own mistakes are important lessons for our kids. Also discuss what everyone learned from their mistake, how they handled it, and/or what they are going to do next (for example, to fix the mistake, to get past it, or what they can do next time).
Consider the Flipside
Have your kids draw a picture of a difficult situation where they were challenged, made a mistake, or even failed. Then, flip the page over and have them draw a picture of how they handled it or what they learned from it. If they haven’t handled the situation yet, have them draw a picture of mastering it.
Whenever your child is faced with a setback, acknowledge their frustration, upset, or disappointment but then help them look for the silver lining. What opportunities came from the situation? Whenever I run late or stuck in traffic, my daughter always reminds me that I now have more time to spend with her. My frustration immediately melts into a smile and appreciation for the moment with her.
Move to # 10: Challenge Them