Everybody makes mistakes. We’ve heard this said many times in our lifetime as adults, but do our kids hear it enough? Today’s kids are consistently being challenged and asked to perform. Some kids thrive off of learning and doing new activities. They are risk-takers in a sense. Other kids prefer to stay in their comfort zone, sticking with the familiar. They can be perfectionists in a sense, wanting to get it just right before moving on. No matter what kind of learner your child tends to be, all kids need to hear that perfection is not the name of the game.
Positive reinforcement, words of encouragement, or even honesty about the situation can be all a kiddo needs to hear sometimes to feel successful at a new skill and ease the slight anxieties of putting themselves out there. Being honest with your kids and letting them know that what they are about to learn or try is a challenge helps them understand the situation. For example, let’s say you are trying to teach shoe tying. Discuss with your child that this skill is challenging, but with lots of practice and tying and untying he/she will get the hang of it! And if you have a good story of your own childhood when you were trying to learn this skill, share it! Kids love to hear about when you were little and if something was hard for you. Letting our kids know that we struggle to learn new things from time-to-time helps them realize that it’s ok to try new things and not be perfect at them the first, second, or tenth time we try it's the fact that we don't give up that counts.
Harvard research shows that adults need a ratio of 6:1 positive to negative/reconstructive comments to feel successful and want to put forth their best efforts. And like us, kids are no exception to that rule. We need to acknowledge their triumphs and encourage them to learn from their mistakes. Here are a few of my favorite ways to praise and provide encouragement to kiddos.
”I see that you are really trying your best at ___________!”
”You are doing better than last time!”
”It’s ok, I make mistakes too!” (providing an example is helpful)
”Let’s think about together!”
“Let’s try it together this time.”
”You make me happy when you try your best!”
”I can tell you’ve been practicing!”
”That was a great try, can I help you with this one!”
”I am so proud of your progress!”
”Look at what you did!”
“You figured it out on your own!”
“Wow, how did you do that?!”
“You are such a kind friend!”
“I love how you think of others!”
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
― Maya Angelou