It’s important for children to learn that it’s OK to make mistakes, a parenting expert says.
Dr Justin Coulson is the author of nine parenting books and co-host of Channel Nine TV show Parental Guidance.
“From toddlerhood to teenage years, one thing is certain – we all make mistakes,” he said.
“How we handle mistakes and how we learn from them in childhood can set us up for life.”
Dr Coulson shares his top tips on mistake-making:
Calm the storm
Emotions can start to rise as your child tries a task for the first time, or learns something new.
“They’ll try and try and then – bam – it all ends in tears,” he says.
“The item is thrown, the artwork screwed up and your little one is kicking their legs on the floor.”
Dr Coulson says it’s easy to jump in and try to fix the problem for them.
“But the best option is to wait calmly and quietly for the temper to subside and tears to dry,” he says.
“Then, when they’re calm, encourage them to try again.
“It may take some gentle guidance from you but, in the end, they will feel proud that they achieved their goal and they learned something along the way – if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.
Fear of failure
Parents with school-aged kids often tell Dr Coulson they see their child becoming despondent or disengaged with schoolwork and after-school activities.
“This presents an opportunity to connect with your child and find out what’s really going on,” he says.
“Often it can be a confidence issue down to fear of failure.”
He urges parents to explore the ‘worst case scenario’ with their child – what would happen if they did try and fail? How bad would it be and what would they learn from it?
“Sometimes, by taking them down the path of failure, they can actually feel empowered to take control and move from fear to acceptance by trying something new,” he says.
As with everything in life, having a good attitude can change your perspective.
“Having a ‘never mind, try again’ attitude can really help take the fear out of mistake-making and help children place their mistakes into perspective,” Dr Coulson says.
“Bouncing back from mistakes is a valuable lesson in resilience – something that will stand your children in good stead in life.”
Kids learn by example.
“If they see you bounce back from a fail, they are likely to bounce, too,” Dr Coulson says.
“Share with them your success and failure stories.
“Throw in some humour to make them laugh. There’s something about laughter that can really lighten up the ‘heaviness’ and fear of mistake-making.”
Share the outcomes and learnings, too, so kids know that mistakes can lead to understanding and new beginnings or different ways of doing things.
Practice again and again
Researchers have found that our kids feel pressure when we ask them to do something perfectly.
“But when we ask them to do something over and over again, the pressure comes off – and they improve,” Dr Coulson says.
“The mistakes don’t matter because it’s about quantity rather than quality…but with quantity comes the expertise that practice promotes, which ultimately drives quality.
“This builds competence for kids, which is incredible for their resilience.”