Making a mistake can be a truly valuable lesson—if we choose. Cultivating a growth mindset in our children will help them recover from mistakes more quickly too.
My young son already loathes making mistakes. If he doesn’t try to ignore the misstep altogether, he will wallow in self-pity, retreating to his room mumbling something about making the “worst mistake ever.”
I know where he gets it, I all too often worry about making an error, a fear deeply-rooted within me that I am chipping away at. Despite this, I want my son to feel more comfortable making mistakes than I have been, so that he can grow from them. It is truly liberating to feel safe to make and admit an error, and his father and I provide him with a comfortable space to do so.
This space my son refers to as “having a conversation.” While not his favorite, these moments are for his growth. The learning will far outweigh ignoring what happened altogether, even if that ignorance seems more comfortable to him. We do our best not to hurt our son’s pride when he makes a mistake and we allow him to move through whatever feelings surface. Once he has this time to feel, the conversation is typically an assessment of what happened in the situation, followed by establishing a pathway for what could be done differently the next time around.
I recently read about a study which assessed growth mindset and mistakes in children. Children were first surveyed to determine if they had a growth mindset (intelligence can be achieved with work) or a fixed one (intelligence cannot be improved upon). They were then given a “fast-moving accuracy” computer assignment to complete while their brain activity was recorded.
Children with a growth mindset exhibited a larger brain response following a mistake and enhanced their performance with the computer task later on. Many of the other children were able to enhance performance as well, however only if they focused on the errors at hand (something research has shown folks without a growth mindset don’t particularly like to do).
This research aside, there are studies that show parental belief about growth mindset to be a significant influence too. This is particularly the case regarding failure. Parents who view failure in a negative light may express worry and poor attitudes toward a child’s mistake (or a less than ideal test score for example). Parents with a growth mindset are more likely to use these “failure” opportunities for learning.
This is why it is imperative that I continue to believe in self-growth and trust failure too. My children are my biggest motivator to improve myself, as I am certain I will make many more mistakes along the way (I’m human after all!). The most beautiful part about this is my son will be there to inspire me. Even though he does not always handle his mistakes gracefully yet, I have heard him share what he has learned, a valuable lesson for me too.
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