Sounds weird, right? I mean, what parent in their right mind would want their child to fail at anything? But research on resilient kids has demonstrated repeatedly that kids that fail in situations or tasks learn to recover and become resilient, especially if parents talk about their failure as an opportunity to learn something new.
A long term and highly revered client couple shared recently that their 15 year old had completed driver’s ed, and had started to drive with parents daily. In the first week, she rounded the corner to their house going much too fast, and plowed into their back kitchen door, buffeted somewhat by the recycling.
She freaked out.
What an opportunity for these wise parents to teach coping skills.
Their daughter was distraught, sure she would never be able to drive successfully. Her parents remained calm, assessed the damage, noted that slowing down would be a great tool next time she drove into the street, and assured her that they too had made small driving errors when they had started to drive. Most people do, they said calmly. We are sure you will not make this mistake again. We’ll practice with you.
They demonstrated their total faith and belief in her, when she didn’t yet know how to believe in herself. They normalized a difficult situation for her.
Wow. These parents had grown up in difficult situations themselves, and yet they were able to provide tools to their child they had not received as kids themselves.
Everyone got healed a bit that day. They sent the message that “You can do hard things.”
What a great thing for a child to learn about themselves.
You can’t buy this self-awareness in any store.
When you think about it, the cosmos provides many thousands of opportunities for us to learn, and still believe in ourselves.
~The infant that falls over the first time they try to stand.
~The toddler that can’t quite pedal the trike, and is very frustrated with themselves.
~The preschooler that spills the milk the first time they try to pour their own.
~ The first grader that can’t quite read the book, without help.
~ The school ager that doesn’t get invited to the birthday party.
~ The middle schooler that likes someone romantically for the first time, and gets their heart broken.
~The high schooler that doesn’t know who they are, but finds out thru community service how much the world needs them.
My mother laughed herself silly with the title of my first book, Misbehavior is Important Work for Children. “Who would have more experience than you in making mistakes!” she laughed. Very true. I’ve made millions of mistakes. I’m sure I will continue to make more. But I sure haven’t made the same mistake twice! And I know for sure I can survive any mistake I make.
Mistakes are important work for kids. Let them learn with the adult support that builds skill, that turns it into a learning opportunity, for the next time. There will always be a next time!