HELPING CHILDREN DEAL WITH MISTAKES
Everyone makes mistakes every day. Sometimes people "catch" you at it, sometimes they don't, but it's how you deal with those goofs that is important. children who are mortified whenever they make a boo-boo, whether on a school assignment or socially, develop poor self-images that can haunt them through life. Here are a number of ways you can help your child deal with mistakes and criticism.
"I," not "You"; The best way to make criticism more palatable is to rephrase it to reflect how the situation makes you feel, instead of casting blame on the child. Compare these:
"You've got to stop making all these sloppy mistakes. You'll never get good grades if you don't shape up."
"I get very frustrated when I see sloppy mistakes in your homework. It makes me feel that you don't care about doing a good job."
Look for Positives. Too often, busy parents take time only to spot and correct their child's mistakes. You can make the sting of criticism easier to handle if you offset criticism with plenty of positive comments. For example, if you see your child reading a book, say, "It's great to see how much you enjoy reading. Tell me about the story."
Criticize the Action, Not the Person: This may be a big switch from what many parents were used to as children, but you can help your children's self-esteem by directing your anger at what they did rather than them. Say, "breaking that glass and not telling anyone about it was wrong. Next time, I want you to be honest when something like that happens."
Use Kind Sarcasm: Kind is the important word here. It can be tempting to be sarcastic, especially in criticizing older children. But sarcasm delivered in a warm, joking way is a great way to deflect embarrassment. Let's say Josh comes downstairs, ready for school, without realizing that he still has his pajamas and shirt on. You could just order him back to change, or you could help him laugh at his mistake: "Are you starting a trend, Josh?" next week, I bet all the fourth graders will be wearing their pj's to school."
You can model the use of kind sarcasm by applying it to your own mistakes. The next time you try a new dessert recipe and it's a flop, ease the situation by saying something like, "I'm not sure, but somehow I think that this isn't going to win the next Pillsbury Bake-Off."
Teach Children to Laugh at Themselves: Everyone does things that make them feel humiliated, like falling clumsily on the ice in front of your friends, or erasing a word so vigorously that it tears a hole in the paper, or completely missing the ball when playing soccer or tennis. By teaching children to laugh and not get upset at their foibles, you'll help them realize that some mistakes can be funny and should not be taken seriously.
Mistakes are a part of life. So is criticism. Help your child to handle both.
This article was produced by the National Association of School Principals.