Making mistakes is a part of growing up. Let’s face it, it’s a BIG part of growing up. A kid can make a mistake to cut his cousin’s hair by himself just because he wanted to play “beauty shop.”
The blunders that we make in order to learn are important, and how you handle the things that your child does matters deeply to his self-esteem and your relationship, says Christopher Willard in the book Child’s Mind. After all, if you flip out when your child does things that displease you, your child will turn inward and hide from you. Here’s how to successfully see your child through the mistakes he WILL make.
WHEN YOU LEARN OF YOUR CHILD’S MISTAKE, REMAIN CALM
This small but oh-so-significant point is the key to conflict resolution and an open relationship. Again, if you’re going to lose in on your kids when they mess us they will withdraw from you and that’s never what you want. Instead, ask:
1) WHAT HAPPENED?
Get the facts on the situation. Refrain from yelling at all costs and speak quietly to your child so he feels safe to respond. If you threaten or frighten him in anyway, he may resort to not responding or simply lying. If you can remain calm so your child can confide in you, you will be able to get to his feelings which is where the truth resides. If you can help your child understand the difference between facts and feelings you’ll be doing him a great service by teaching him that our emotions (the desire to cut the cousin’t hair) is different from facts (you really don’t know how to cut hair).
2) HOW DO YOU FEEL NOW?
Your child already knows your are disappointed in him because you are having a serious talk about something he did wrong. His feelings are everything to him — as yours are to you. Does he REALLY need to feel ashamed? He probably already feels that way, but you can minimize it by helping your child to describe his feelings and to let him know that you understand that feeling — tell him about a mistake you made when you were young. Since not all children are the same, it’s important that you guide your child through what he’s feeling based upon what you know about him. Some kids will beat themselves up; others are quick to move on, eager to get to a happier place.
3) IS THERE SOMETHING YOU CAN DO TO MAKE IT ALL BETTER?
Ask this of your child so he can begin to know what it’s like to look at solutions after mistakes. He may not be able to get his cousin’s pretty hair back, but maybe he can pick out a cute hat or head band as a way of making amends to his cousin (and Aunt!). Consequences provide great life lessons for children: “Because you played in the house with the baseball and broke a photo frame, you will not play outside this afternoon with your friends.”
• Tell your child you don’t expect him to be perfect
• Tell your child you love him regardless of his mistakes
• Focus on the solution for your child
• Provide examples of your own mistakes
• Encourage your child to take responsibility for his mistakes
• Don’t rehash past mistakes, focus on the current one
• Praise your child for owning up
• Help your child learn how to apologize when he makes a mistake
• Help your child look at the bright side of getting things wrong