We have all heard the adage, ‘Mistakes are stepping stones to success.’ Is it really true? Let’s find out.
Try to picture these scenes.
Amit, 3 years old, picks up a glass of water and brings it slowly to his mouth. Suddenly, it slips from his fingers. The water spills all over.
The parent says, “See what you have done, kanna! Be careful!”
Sneha, 8 years old, is flipping the pages of her encyclopedia looking at the lovely pictures. As she flips the next page, it tears right in the middle.
The parent states, “You are so careless!”
Rehan, 15 years old, is back from school. He has a worried look. He shares that his chemistry notebook is missing.
The parent says, “How many times have I told you to be responsible?”
Hearing this, what are the thoughts that may be going through the child’s head, who is already feeling bad and nervous? It may be, ‘It is not okay to make mistakes. I am bad for making them.’ or ‘I am careless’, or ‘Why is dad shouting at me? As if he does not make mistakes. Next time I will not tell him.’
We want the child to pay attention, to learn to do things in the right way and be responsible. Our intentions are good, yet we might scold them. We do so because that's what we have seen, but today research and brain scans have shown that when children feel threatened, they become fearful, and therefore, are not able to think clearly. And that’s why they cannot absorb the information we are trying to give them. As a result, they make the same mistake over and over again.
Maria Montessori aptly states, ‘It is well to cultivate a friendly feeling towards error, to treat it as a companion inseparable from our lives, as something having a purpose which it truly has.’ Thus, how we choose to respond to the child will determine how they view mistakes.
Let’s guide our child to learn from their mistakes and make amends.
The dictionary meaning of ‘make amends’ is ‘to do something to correct a mistake that one has madeor to resolve the situation after a wrong has been done.’
To help a child make amends we could –
Describe what we see or what we hear.
“I see the water is spilt.”
“The page is torn.”
“Oh! The book seems lost?”
Acknowledge what the child may be feeling.
“Oh kanna! You are wet.”
“You may be feeling so bad. It is your favourite book.”
“I can imagine how worried you are about your notebook.”
Reassure the child that things can be set right and everyone makes mistakes.
“We all make mistakes. It is okay. What can we do next?”
Show the child how to make amends.
“Let’s get the cloth and wipe the water off the floor.”
“We can get the tape and mend the page. See, like this.”
“What would you like to do? I am here if you need my help.” or
“Do you first want to search for your book in the bag and desk?”
Through our process of communication, the child begins to think calmly, takes responsibility for their actions and makes the effort to set things right.
Learning from their mistakes helps children make better decisions the next time round. When they try something new, it helps their brain to develop further. This steps them up for success. Therefore, the above proverb seems to be true!
Author: Sujata Dewaji is a certified parent Educator with Parenting Matters, an organisation that promotes parents to build deeper connections within families.