Normalizing Mistakes

When I make a mistake, I feel frustrated, slightly embarrassed, and immediately want to forget about it and move on. Then, when I’m teaching, I turn around and tell my students how wonderful it is to make mistakes, how it increases our opportunities to learn and how it’s not only normal but preferred to make mistakes! 

Notice any disconnects here? 

Children pick up on cues from adults to see how to act, respond, and assess any situation. So it’s no wonder that when your child spells something wrong, or sounds a word out incorrectly, their face flushes or they begin to feel embarrassed themselves.  If we want our children to become resilient, risk-taking readers, we must, as adults, normalize our relationship with mistakes first. Only then can we encourage our children to be okay with their own mistakes.  

Normalize Mistakes: There are a few ways you can normalize mistakes in your household. Our children pick up on if something is a “kid thing” or an “adult thing” so try making mistakes an “adult thing” first. This can look like you and another adult discussing your favorite mistake of the day- ranging from a small mistake like adding too much salt to dinner to a big mistake like losing a client because of a bungled proposal. In your discussion, adult-to-adult in front of your kids, try talking about how you felt frustrated and then saw what you could learn from the mistake, or how the mistake can help you further. 

Once you have normalized mistakes among the adults, try talking to your child about their favorite mistake. 

Favorite Mistake: The next time your child makes a mistake, instead of saying “don’t worry, you’ll get it next time” try praising the thought and effort behind the mistake. You can say: 
I love that mistake! It shows me you’re really thinking. 
That mistake was a great one because it made you pause and think.
Oh good, a mistake! That means we now have a chance to learn! 
By normalizing your relationship with mistakes, you’re ensuring that your children see learning as a process that necessitates mistakes! That’s a gift that keeps on giving. 

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