Monday, January 24, 2011

Parent's Top Ten List - #8 - Share Your Mistakes

We are counting down the 2011 Parent’s Top Ten List, which is available here to print and post on your fridge. Over the next few weeks, we will get into more detail on each of the list’s high level suggestions for building family unity. So far we’ve covered Be Clear on Who Owns the Problem and Share Your Love Language. Today we are discussing Share Your Mistakes.

This suggestion may sound a little risky. You may be questioning if your child will respect you if you make mistakes or share your mistakes with him. You may fear that you will ‘loose control’ or ‘loose the upper hand’ if your child discovers any of your vulnerabilities. Instead of loss, you will actually experience gain.

Most people grew up with a fear of making mistakes. If you think about what happened when you made a mistake as child – your parents yelled at you or punished you – it is easy to see why a child would decide that mistakes are to be avoided at all costs. To avoid mistakes, you may lock yourself in indecision, shy away from new experiences, freeze up in job interviews, give up on things you desire, or hide any mistakes you think you have made so others don’t see them.

The truth is that mistakes are how we learn. A child learning to walk may stumble and fall before taking a series of steps. We encourage that child to keep going when he falls down. Making mistakes – those times we fall down – is how we improve. When we model being comfortable with both making mistakes and learning from our mistakes, our children will feel more comfortable, too. They will be better equipped to observe their own mistakes as learning experiences. They will make the connection between studying and success on a test. They will see the relationship between the amount they practice and their level of skill. They will raise their hand in class even if they are not 100% sure that they have the correct answer because they are eager to participate and learn. They will say “yes” to new things such as playing tennis or taking ballet or being in a performance. They will be willing to go for what they want instead of stifling their passions.

Practice sharing a mistake each week with your child. Make it age-appropriate. Talking about the mistake of divorcing his mother is probably a conversation to have when your son is an adult. Right now, there are a lot of places to get comfortable with mistakes, talk about them, learn from them and discover how you will do it differently the next time. For example:

• Not returning a phone call and the reaction of the friend who had originally called you
• Yelling at your child for not being ready for school on time or for making a bad grade or for forgetting to practice the piano
• Not listening to someone at work or someone in your family
• Not taking good care of yourself

I can talk about the mistake I made of walking in a parking lot while I was reading something on my phone. I didn’t see the car in front of me and was fortunate they saw me.

If you find yourself wanting to maintain the iconic status of “perfect parent” who never makes mistakes, use the line that Nero Wolfe, the genius fictional detective created by Rex Stout in 1934, often said, “Flummery!” Experience the connection and comfort as well as your child’s unique suggestions when you share your mistakes.

To hear this as a podcast, click here.

The Freedom To Be Course – happening in Pembroke Pines February 11-13 – will assist you in getting comfortable with your mistakes and learning from them. Click here for more on Freedom to Be.

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