As parents, we can raise our children to both welcome and learn from their mistakes instead of being shattered by them. We can aspire to teach them to use their mistakes to help them grow instead of allowing those mistakes to generate external reactions that will make them wither. Only then can they strive for personal excellence, which, when it boils right down to it, is what we really want for them.
Here are some suggestions that will help our children develop good defeat recovery skills:
- Never admonish yourself openly for a mistake. Instead, mention what solution you intend to use and what you learned from that mistake. “Oops, I burned the mashed potatoes again. I’ll wash out this pan and start all over again. I guess I shouldn’t try to cook and read magazines at the same time!”
- Never deny your children something they’re good at as a consequence for misbehavior. For instance, if your toddler is very creative with building blocks and her favorite play activity is building shopping malls and suspension bridges with them, be sure not to punish her by taking them away: “Look at the mess you made with those paints! How am I ever going to get this off my newly painted walls? Sarah, you naughty girl! For that, you’re not allowed to play with your blocks today.” If Sarah is repeatedly denied what she excels in, eventually, she’ll grow to shun goals altogether.
- Teach your children that there is no quota for failed attempts. There’s progress and success to be found in each of them. If your toddler is trying to learn to button his shirt, try not to intervene unless he becomes overwhelmed. Point out the buttons he did manage to fasten. The next attempt, bring up how he keeps on trying. The third attempt, point out how he correctly lined up some of them, and so on.
- Have weekly family mistake contests that your toddler can observe and eventually participate in when he’s old enough. You and the older children must record every mistake they’ve made during the day. During dinner, each can describe the mistake from which they’ve learned the most. The entire family can then decide which one was the best and why. Because this unmasks the advantages that each failure offers, children become more accepting of their shortcomings and mistakes.