Mistakes happen. We all make them.
As a kid, I don’t remember explicitly learning how to deal with them. I do remember a few key mistakes I hid from my parents. When I was about seven or eight, I touched the chimney starter heating up on our barbecue. The resulting burn was a white-hot blister in seconds. My regret was almost as immediate. I knew I shouldn’t have done it, and I didn’t want to face my parents’ reaction. So instead I bandaged it in the bathroom and hid it until it healed. I faced the week of pain all on my own.
Worth the Embarrassment
I have told my kids this story a few times. On the surface, it serves as a cautionary tale to not touch hot things. The real reason I tell them, however, is because I want them to talk to me about their mistakes. I tell them of how I felt when I hurt myself because I chose to not heed something I had been told and knew better than to do. I mostly felt embarrassed and worried that my parents wouldn’t trust me anymore. This opened a discussion on what my kids think would have happened. Both believe that if I had told, my parents would have helped me and they would have seen that I had learned that lesson the hard way. I hope this means that they know that is exactly how I would react to their hard-learned lessons. That we can learn from mistakes and move on.
Let Them Learn from Your Mistakes
Next time you make a mistake, talk about it. Did you forget to return someone’s text or phone call? Forget to buy something at the store? These are easily made common mistakes without big consequences, which make them the perfect teachable moment! Admitting your mistakes is not easy, but reframing it for yourself, as teaching an important life skill to your kids, might make it easier. These skills are important to our children’s emotional intelligence, and something necessary if we want to raise adults who are ready for adulthood.
To start, how do you feel when you make a mistake? This could range from embarrassment and annoyance to anger. Giving a vocabulary to your feelings is a skill that kids need to move from their feelings to a solution. Let them know whatever they are feeling is okay.
Find a Solution
So, how do you fix this mistake? It could be as simple as giving an apology to the person you forgot to contact. Maybe you need to go back to the store to get what you forgot. Let your kids see your process. Let them see you walk through the solution. Sometimes a mistake doesn’t have a solution, such as a missed deadline to rsvp or sign up for an event. In that case, discuss how you feel living with that natural consequence of missing out.
The most important thing in this process is that you are talking to your kids.Letting them see how you process and deal with real life. Modeling the behavior we want to see is the key. Show them how to be the kind of human being we want them to be. This is how we raise adults.