Recently, I attended a work party at a golf range. Not only was this an outing with brand new coworkers, but it was at a golf range. Did I mention the golf range already? As I waited for my turn, I thought about everything I’d ever heard my dad say about golfing and immediately resolved to pay better attention next time. I set my ball on the tee, took a deep breath, and pulled the club back. Then I swung, completely missing the ball. To make matters worse, I lowered my club and somehow hit the ball on the return, sending it flying in the opposite direction. I’m just lucky no one got hurt.
After taking a humbling bow to the shocked faces around me, I took a seat. When I got home later, I told my kids this story, but instead of complaining about my mistake, I laughed. “Isn’t that funny, you guys?” I looked at their incredulous faces. “Well, I learned I have a way to go with golf,” I said. “But it was fun! We should go sometime!” To my delight, my kids agreed! Making a mistake can be hard on anyone, especially such a public one. But learning how to handle mistakes is a great skill. Here are 5 ways to teach your kids it’s OK to make mistakes—and that they shouldn’t fear messing up.
1. Try something new together as a family.
Everyone will make mistakes. If you can find a new activity to do together, it will be good for the kids to see you struggle and rebound. Try roller-skating, pickleball, or badminton. Watch a painting class online with your kids and do the artwork together. Our family did this recently, and everyone’s fox painting came out slightly different (mine had a wonky tail). If my kids got down on themselves for not making the eyes quite right (they did), I pointed out that mine didn’t look perfect either (note the deranged stare). “But all of our foxes are cute and unique,” I said. By focusing on the positive—and what really mattered—my kids eased up on the self-criticism and were able to enjoy the class.
2. Laugh at the mistakes.
We recently bought a Ping-Pong table for the basement. Hitting the ceiling is obviously not the objective, but it means we’re trying. We’re laughing, making it clear that it’s OK to make mistakes by keeping the mood light. Trying something new takes guts. Laughing at yourself means you have self-compassion.
Trying something new takes guts. Laughing at yourself means you have self-compassion.
3. Avoid teasing or dwelling on the mistake.
There’s a difference between laughing at our mistakes and laughing at a person. If I teased my child for hitting the ceiling more than the table, she’d never play Ping-Pong with me again. It can be hard for some kids to see the difference.
4. Emphasize the mistake as a step toward mastery.
Every mistake is a stepping stone to learning something new. My family loves a very difficult board game called Scythe. Maybe it’s from a lack of desire, but I’ve had a hard time learning this game. Mistakes abound. Fortunately, my kids don’t mind stepping in to help (a lot). But every time I play, I feel a little bit closer to learning the game. I’m showing them it’s OK to make mistakes because it means I’m trying.
5. Don’t be critical.
Criticism kills creativity. My daughter has learned through her mistakes how to draw the perfect horse. I could’ve offered help, but she didn’t want it and I’ve learned not to push. Being critical during the learning phase of something new can make a child less resilient. She’ll think perfection is the only way to go and she’ll fear messing up. So I’ve learned to ease up and not offer much advice—or any—unless she asks. So far, it’s been working. My daughter has various horse drawings taped to her wall, ranging from is-it-a-donkey? to oh-wow-a-stallion! And she knows she’s improved through trial—and many errors.
Exposing your kids to a variety of opportunities will inevitably turn up mistakes. Who’s good at everything? No one. Let’s remind our kids—and ourselves—of that every so often.
How have you helped your child learn that it’s OK to make mistakes?
ASK YOUR CHILD…
When you make a mistake, how does it feel?
BUY SLAY NETWORK NFTs on BITCLOUT