…is never perfect. So states the postcard that sits above my bedside table, and the more I think about it the truer it becomes. I often try to explain to my kids that in creating something we need to plan how we go about it; things don’t just simply appear, despite the modern world’s pursuit at instant gratification. It takes an enormous amount of planning, trial and error, before our technological wonder of the modern world appears before us, and even then it’s not always perfect.
If at first you don’t succeed
The English language, and no doubt others, is full of expressions on themes of success and failure, “If at first you don’t succeed, try again”, “Dust yourself off and go again”. Entrepreneurs argue they don’t attain success if they haven’t failed at least once, and some even thrive on it. Some may argue against this, however, the point is that it’s incredibly difficult to understand something unless we have experienced it, and most importantly, learned from it.
Play to fail, and learn from it
As we grow in life we’re expected to learn from our mistakes, yet how do we do this if we lack the confidence, having never failed because we never tried it? Personally, I find this is one of the fundamental tenets of play. The right of children to explore, experiment and investigate, and children’s play in all ages should reflect this. A child’s play is rarely some seamless, perfect experience. Things drop, break, get bashed about; they get grazes and bruises, and for some the odd broken bone. It’s all part of the experience of growing up, the cause and effect of life, and learning from those mistakes. This is highlighted in an article, written by Kelli Anderson and partnered with Dr. Stephanie Marcy, PhD, psychologist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, about what is termed “helicopter” parents; those that tend to hover. What this creates is an environment that, despite all the good intentions, inhibits children’s ability to grow in self confidence. Not knowing failure can lead to not knowing how to deal with frustration and learning tolerance.
There are obviously times when as a parent, or adult, we need to step in. If children are facing a serious risk of physical or emotional harm, or bullying is evident, we as responsible adults need to address this.
Judy Willis M.D., M.Ed. wrote that, “Children, whose parents balance high expectations with giving them opportunities to make mistakes, develop greater cognitive flexibility, confidence, creativity, and problem solving skills.”
1. Be supportive. Create a comfortable, loving environment at home that allows children to explore ideas and think outside the box.
2. Let them work through problems and don’t simply impart all your knowledge. Encourage them to find their own solutions and answers, helping to build cognitive functions and future problem solving skills
3. Let them make mistakes. They will recognise areas where they lack understanding and will remember more from that experience. It’s after the mistakes that we can share our information or approach, but try to avoid explaining how to correct the mistakes.
4. Share your own mistakes with them, talk about what happened and how you felt. Help them to tolerate uncertainty and frustration.
5. Be positive about their effort and perseverance in overcoming their mistakes and try not correct them when they’re about to do something, right or wrong.
Mistakes are inherent in life, we can only grow stronger through them, and the proof may well be in the pudding, as you will know from an afternoon baking with kids – you can guarantee it’s not going to be perfect, but it’s going to be beautiful.