Our lives are so busy. Sometimes I feel as if all I do is run errands and shuttle kids back and forth from school, sports, piano lessons and birthday parties. And in all the rush we can forget our objective as parents.
In my mind, one of the main goals of parenting should be to teach our children life skills and resilience so that they can manage one day on their own. So they can be productive and contributing members of our society. So they can be “involved faithfully in the needs of the community” (kol mi she’oskim b’tzarchei tzibbur b’emunah).
One important life skill is learning to manage the errors we make, repair them and grow from them. Often parents are fearful of allowing their children to move forward, to explore; we are afraid that they will make mistakes. We want to protect our children. However, children who are not allowed to make mistakes can become fearful of making the smallest decisions. They may be hesitant to solve problems and try new experiences.
We want to promote resilience in our children. Resilient children try new things. Resilient children take (healthy) risks. Resilient children make mistakes, get up, brush themselves off and move on.
We need to change our fearful attitude and teach kids to handle their mistakes with aplomb. We can teach kids to celebrate their mistakes.
The best and simplest way to do this is to role model. We need to share with our kids the mistakes we make everyday. We need to show our kids that when we make mistakes, we try to use them as opportunities to learn and grow. Kids love to hear that adults make mistakes. We can then discuss with them what we have learned from our errors.
For example: “I bought this coat online from a store that I’d never heard of and it was such poor quality. I am going to remember to only buy things from stores that I know I can trust!” or, “This pound cake is the best cake I make. Did I ever tell you it was a mistake? I was making a marble cake but I didn’t have cocoa. I took a risk and made it without the cocoa. I am so glad I did!”
I had a social mishap recently where I unintentionally insulted a relative of mine. I was terribly embarrassed and ashamed, even though I had never meant to hurt her. I was out of sorts the whole day until I pulled together enough courage to sheepishly call her to apologize and explain myself. She was very kind and forgiving.
I shared this experience with my children. I said, “I am a little preoccupied and upset. I hurt this person’s feelings and I didn’t mean to. I feel really embarrassed. I did do the right thing in the end–I called her and apologized and she was very nice and forgave me right away. I think I’ll definitely be more careful with what I say to people from now on.”
Seeing you struggle with doing the right thing will teach your children firsthand what to do when they make the same mistakes. They will not shy away from fixing what needs to be fixed– in the above case, making amends–because they have a strong visual model of how it is done.
Mistakes are not something to be afraid of. They’re a part of everyday life. Teaching our children to deal with their errors will encourage them to be resilient and strong. It creates a “can-do” feeling that they will use and value their whole lives.
Adina Soclof, MS. CCC-SLP, works as a Parent Educator for Bellefaire Jewish Children’s Bureau facilitating How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk workshops as well as workshops based on Siblings Without Rivalry. Adina also runs parentingsimply.com.