Celebrating Mistakes

respectfulparenting Aug 07, 2022

I’ve been trying to figure out how to say something and then my lady BB (Brene Brown) comes up with the best way to say it in her new podcast Daring Leadership.

The concept I wanted to explain was that of not only becoming the kind of parents who ACCEPT our children’s mistakes but the kind of parents who CELEBRATE mistakes!

Someone once shared with me that she thinks the reason she’s so successful in life is because her dad nightly asked her if she made any mistakes and the day she said none, he’d make a sad face and say, “Oh no... better luck tomorrow!” When she did share her mistakes, he’d high-five her and together, they’d reflect on learning outcomes from those mistakes and end with this sense of gratitude for the opportunities those mistakes presented.

What a gift her dad gave her! She said it normalized mistakes for her so that she wasn’t afraid of doing anything and accomplished so much in life because she always went in it with the acceptance that things might not go flawlessly and that’s ok!

Can you imagine how powerful it is when we do that for our kids? Also note how damaging the opposite is- when children are made to feel bad for every single screw up.

So, what does that look like? To embrace and celebrate mistakes...

Brown put it wonderfully, she said, normalize everything! I’ll explain in examples below what that looks like but before I do that, there’s often a step 2 of embracing mistakes; talking about the amends or learning outcomes.

1- Normalize and accept mistakes 2- Ask questions about amends/learning

Brother hits his sister. You’re mad at your sister? (Validate) Oh boy, I know what THAT feels like! (Normalize) How else can you show her that you’re mad? (Learning)

Your daughter “steals” your hidden snack stash. Looks like you were really hungry! (Validate) Gosh... I remember taking candy from my mom’s purse when she wasn’t watching. (Normalize) What can you do next time when you need something of mine and I’m not around? (Learning)

Your teen crashes your car. Uh-oh you must be feeling pretty crappy right now. (Validate) I know cuz I’ve done the same... gah the first time I hit my car I wanted to die! (Normalize) Can you think of some ways you can help me pay for the damage? (Amends)

As always though, it’s important to give grace. Not every mistake needs to be a learning lesson and neither does every mistake require amends. Sometimes we quietly and graciously forgive- like how we’d like others to forgive US when we screw up. I would even venture to say that this is what can happen at least 50% of the times.

Neuroscience tells us that our brains grow every time we make mistakes even when we don’t register that mistake!

Because when we don’t rub it in their faces and don’t mention their mistakes despite noticing, we’re also teaching something extremely important. We’re teaching how to give grace and forgiveness.

Adding a note here and acknowledgement for you that this is likely super duper hard. Most of us were not allowed to make mistakes as children and were punished harshly or shamed for even the most childish of mistakes so we get very very triggered when our kids make mistakes. It’s important to acknowledge this trauma-response for ourselves so we can grow in compassion for ourselves and therefore, our children. Notice carefully how they watch us when they make mistakes... what’s our face saying even as we struggle to control our triggers?

With this shift in our thinking (that just because we weren’t allowed to make mistakes doesn’t mean our kids shouldn’t be allowed either) and practice... we got this انشاللہ