mistakes are for LEARNING
My six year old has been taking piano lessons for a few months now and, as to be expected, the lessons are gradually becoming more difficult. There have been tears of frustration and moments of defeat.
The annoying perfectionist in me wants to instill in him that “practice makes perfect” and to address his frustration with a comforting, “Well, that piece is hard to play.” But how will this serve him? How will this teach him to persevere and work through these struggles?
It won’t. I know it’s hard to watch our children make mistakes and struggle but mistakes are important for learning lessons and gaining confidence. It’s through failure that children learn what Angela Lee Duckworth calls “grit”.
helping our children develop grit
In her TED Talk called “Grit: The Power of Perseverance,” Duckworth defines grit as passion and perseverance for long-term goals. In other words, grit means not giving up. In order to instill this concept of grit in our children, she explains that we need to adopt a “growth mindset” which is the understanding that the ability to learn can change with your effort and that failure is not a permanent condition.
how does this apply to allowing children to make mistakes?
When we rush to correct our children’s mistakes and eliminate obstacles from their struggles, we are taking away from them opportunities to learn persistence and resilience. When we solve their problems for them, we create a relationship of dependency. Instead of trying to work through their issues on their own, they will always depend on us, or others, to take care of everything.
They will never develop grit.
Also, by constantly correcting their mistakes we are inherently teaching them to feel shame and anxiety about getting things wrong. If they fear failure they will never persist long enough to succeed.
what can we do when our child makes mistakes?
First of all, we need to take cues from our children’s reactions. You’ll notice most of the time children will make mistakes and continue on as if nothing happened. In these cases, there is nothing we need to do. However, if your child reacts negatively to a mistake, this is when we need to be supportive and understanding. Recognize your child’s emotions by saying, “I know you’re frustrated that you can’t tie your shoes. Keep trying, you will get it.”
Secondly, we need to focus on the process more so than the result. Most tasks can be broken down into smaller parts. Think of riding a bike: We first teach children how to sit on the bike, then how to pedal and then how to brake. We use training wheels to help teach them stability. We don’t throw our children on a bike and expect them to know how to ride. This is focusing on the process instead of the outcome.
Lastly, instead of fixing the mistake for your child, help them figure out what to do. Work together to find a solution to their issue and then let them implement that solution. Be supportive and guide them along the way.
mottos to stick with
Thankfully, my son has stuck with piano. I make sure that I let him know that I’m not expecting him to be perfect and I remind him that every new song was a challenge, but became easier as he learned and practiced it. Our mottos have become “Practice Makes Better” and “Mistakes are For Learning”. I feel both encompass my belief that children need to make mistakes in order to develop passion and perseverance.
They need to experience failure in order to develop grit. And this grit will, in turn, help our children develop into successful, resilient, and independent adults.
books that show the benefits of making mistakes
Here are some wonderful books I have enjoyed with my children to reinforce that mistakes can have positive outcomes. Beautiful OOPS! by Barney Saltzberg is a fun interactive book that shows the beauty that can be found in mistakes, Bubble Gum Brain by Julia Cook beautifully reinforces the idea of “growth mindset” through the perspectives of 2 characters with opposing beliefs on the way things are, and Mistakes That Worked: 40 Familiar Inventions & How They Came to Be by Charlotte Foltz Jones is an entertaining look at wonderful inventions (like silly putty and potato chips) that came about by happy accidents.
Please enjoy this free Tot Tails coloring page to help share this message with your child.