In last week’s mat chats, we discussed with students ideas and feelings around making mistakes.
Mistakes are a natural, inevitable and important part of learning. They give feedback on whether or not you are moving in the right direction. If you try something, and do it perfectly every time, you are not learning anything—you are simply tapping into skills or abilities you already have.
When you make a mistake, you present yourself a learning opportunity. What in your effort (or lack of effort) went wrong? What adjustments need to be made for your effort to be more successful moving forward?
Unfortunately, we often see our mistakes as signals of our own shortcomings. If we get a math problem wrong, it is proof that we are “just bad at math”. We say something embarrassing in a social setting and see evidence that we are socially awkward or stupid.
A more powerful perspective is to see mistakes as signals that we can learn something and allow that view to stimulate curiosity and even enthusiasm.
Seeing yourself as bad at math suggest that some math-part of you is broken or defective and will always be that way. It is more powerful—and empowering—to see it simply as a gap in your knowledge and skill, and to allow that to trigger you to understand what you are missing.
This is an important skill to pass on to your child. Children are constantly receiving signals of their worth through grades and praise (or lack thereof) from adults. A mistake can be uncomfortable and even threatening because it negatively impacts these two important cues of self-worth.
Teach your child that making mistakes is not only okay, but it is also a good thing because it shows that they are in the learning process.
A sad, even depressing, part of our culture today is how, through social media and news, people’s worst moments are highlighted and broadcasted for all to see and judge. And that judging has become a national sport. Simple mistakes can become devastating lifelong identities. This emphasizes the view that mistakes are moral failings, rather than an opportunity.
The consequences? The world is less forgiving of mistakes and people are inclined to hide or run away from their mistakes rather than embracing them for the learning experiences they are. On top of that, people have increasing fear of trying new and unfamiliar things for fear of the consequences from making mistakes.
And they are modeling these perspectives and behaviors for our children.
So encourage your child to make mistakes. When he/she makes that inevitable mistake, celebrate it as the opportunity that is!
If you want to learn more about the value of making mistakes, check out this article on Sabumnim Espy’s blog entitled, “It’s Time to Celebrate Your Child’s Failure”.