When kids make mistakes, my absolute favorite line to say to them is “I’m so glad this happened!” So often, our kids are afraid that we will find out about their mistakes, and that when we do, we will get angry and tell them “You shouldn’t have done that!”, and punish them for what they have done. That’s what I love about this line! It catches kids by surprise, and often hooks them into a conversation that they would otherwise try to avoid because they can’t figure out what my “angle” is!
But here’s the thing… I actually AM glad when I have the opportunity to talk to kids about the mistakes they have made. After all, mistakes are how we learn. The mistakes that kids make tell me what it is that the child needs to learn. The child who hits another on the playground needs to learn about strategies to manage anger; the child who was caught smoking needs to learn strategies to resist peer pressure; the child who cheated on a test needs to learn how to do the math problems so that she doesn’t need to cheat.
No one wants to be a failure. Every mistake we make was our best attempt in that moment to be as successful as we could. I don’t want to be a mom who yells at her kids, but sometimes that’s my best attempt at getting them to understand how important something is to me. I don’t want to be the person who never calls to stay in touch with her friends, but sometimes I feel that I can’t let the people down at work, or my kids down at home, and there just isn’t enough hours in the day. There is always a reason for the apparently “bad” behaviour we exhibit. If I could find a way to get the point across to my kids, or to stay in touch with my friends while still being a good employee and mom, of course that’s what I’d want. It’s just hard to figure out how to do that sometimes!
And that’s the gift we are given when kids share their mistakes with us. We have the chance to help them learn to balance their needs, and be more effective in the behaviours that they choose.