By: Renee Jain
"Wow, she’s a natural at soccer.”
"He's like a math prodigy!”
“Did you see how well she plays the violin? And she’s only 5.”
Don’t get me wrong — my mom attempted to influence me with the truism: If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.
Yet, to me, it seemed that the pathway to success shouldn't include practicing by making mistakes. How wrong I was!
I consistently tried new things and then gave up if I didn’t flourish almost instantly. I didn't learn until much later that making mistakes is not only a healthy part of developing strong self-esteem and learning, it can provide the greatest opportunities for success.
Here are three powerful and actionable strategies for improving your child's view of mistakes and success.
1. Reframe your child’s perspective about mistakes
For most kids, making a mistake means “doing something wrong”. That outlook makes facing a challenge difficult and impacts confidence.
World-renowned researcher of motivation Carol Dweck reveals that those who adopt that type of “fixed mindset” — a belief that intelligence, character and creative ability are innate and immutable — cap their own potential by avoiding challenge.
On the contrary, those who confidently believe that intelligence and abilities are assets we nurture and cultivate through hard work possess “growth mindsets.” For those kids, making a mistake is an opportunity to learn. Dweck’s studies are clear: Kids with a growth mindset take on more challenges, bounce back more quickly from setbacks and thrive academically in comparison to those with fixed mindsets.
Fortunately, we can help our kids nurture growth mindsets. For example, the simple awareness that the brain is a muscle that we can develop helps us do just that. Giving a child space to work out problems and make mistakes without fear of judgment, shame or punishment is another way to cultivate his or her growth mindset.
2. Change your reactions to your child's mistakes
Most of us learned early in life to hide our mistakes, putting as much distance between us and our failure as possible. While society (and general human nature) is largely to blame for reinforcing such attitudes and behaviors, as parents, we now have the power to break that toxic way of thinking.
If children fear the consequences of accidentally knocking over that plant in the living room, getting a low grade or cutting their little sister’s bangs with their crafting scissors, we're fostering in them a fear of making mistakes at all (including the critical ones they'll need to make to grow into healthy, well-functioning adults).
While I am not proposing a life with no consequences (or toddler-staffed barbershops), I am proposing that we examine our own reactions as parents and educators to our children’s mistakes. The vast majority of mistakes young children make are relatively harmless. They have fixable outcomes that children can learn from.
Making mistakes is part of trying... part of practicing... two things that grow confidence as we encourage our children to do all the time. Only through our calm reactions to mistakes can we establish this mentality in our children, and only through consistent application can we make it stick. (Having two toddlers at home myself, I know this takes practice.)
3. Help your child stop negative self-talk.
“Why didn’t I do better on that test? I'm so dumb! I wish I were smarter.”
It’s common to adopt a voice of self-criticism after making a mistake. But it's time to teach our children to treat themselves as they treat their own best friends. Research shows self-compassion trumps self-criticism on the path toward reaching our goals.
Wait — isn’t this a form of self-indulgence? Shouldn’t we teach our kids accountability for their mistakes?
A pioneer in self-compassion, Dr. Kristin Neff says there are three common misconceptions about the nature of self-compassion:
We must teach our children to feel compassion for themselves simply because they're human. Practicing self-compassion allows our kids to observe, acknowledge and learn from their mistakes without feeling shame, all without regard to external circumstances or skill levels.
Making mistakes is essential to your child's success
If we can teach our children to view mistakes as opportunities, to embrace their mistakes and to practice self-compassion, we give them powerful and exponentially rewarding gifts. They will inevitably find more success and genuinely make the world a better, kinder place.
Join Renee on a mission to teach children invaluable skills including resilience, self-compassion, how to take on anxiety and much more at Gozen.com
Originally published on YourTango.
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