This is the third part in a series I’ve posted on the topic of building self esteem in children. Fox News 13 picked my book as the “Book of the Month” and interviewed me about the topic of parenting. I decided to write more than I was able to share on the short segment. The previous tips were “Encouragement vs. Praise” and “Valuing the Worth of Others.” This next one we didn’t have time to talk about so I’m including it here.
Learning from Mistakes
Parents can do a lot to reinforce a child’s worth when mistakes happen. Instinctively, we do the opposite: humiliate or rage about their incompetence. Kick them when they’re down. We forget that growth means learning to improve and imperfection is part of the natural world. We still fail and we’ve had a lot more experience than children. How do we want others to react when we make a mistake? I think we’d want others to be gentle with us, and that’s the way we should be with ourselves and our children. It’s good to remember that they are new at life. They are still learning, and making mistakes is part of the learning process.
No doubt it’s appropriate to express our disappointment when they’ve done something wrong. But at the same time, parents need to see these as opportunities to teach the value of the individual. We affirm their goodness even if what they didn’t wasn’t so good. “Wow, that wasn’t so smart, but you are smart. In fact, I know you are better than this and I know you’ll figure out a way to fix it.”
I’m not advocating for parents to neglect enforcing a consequence when needed. But many times, kids just screw up because they weren’t thinking or they were being careless, not because they were doing it on purpose or being malevolent. I’m just reminding us that words matter when we say, “What were you thinking? You’re such an idiot! How many times must I tell you? Are you deaf?” These are moments when fragile self esteem takes a beating. These words are tearing down an already low-spirited child.
Let’s not kick the child when he’s down. Let’s offer a hand up, dusting off, and the confidence to step up and do better. The following is an example of how a dad did just this when his young son spilled his drink at a Target store. Another customer, Kalynne Marie, witnessed his response and posted it on Facebook . As you read her post, notice how this amazing dad took the opportunity to teach his son about how to clean up the “spills” in life while instilling self confidence and personal responsibility.
“I just witnessed a boy, maybe about 6 or 7, accidentally spill a slushee everywhere in Target. I didn’t get a photo but I’m including one of my son and I. I’m talking blue and red goop all over the floor, the table, everywhere. The boy looked up at who I assume was his father, and immediately apologized. Instead of getting angry, his father just said ‘Hey, it happens. Let’s go get napkins and I can show you how to clean it up.’ Then they calmly went to get napkins and then he helped him clean the entire mess. Then, as they were throwing the napkins away, the father said to his son, ‘You’re going to be a human being for a long time, and you have such a smart brain that it’s important you learn how to be more aware of what you’re doing. So next time just be sure to pay more attention to your surroundings so accidents like this don’t happen. Accidents like these can be prevented, but it’s still okay if they happen. As long as you take responsibility for your mistakes, the clean up is a breeze. I know big messes seem overwhelming and you might feel like you can’t do it by yourself, but it’s always okay to ask for help. There is no problem with asking for help when you need it.’
I have no words. That is parenting done right.” 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻