Teaching a child not to get upset about their mistakes


Not every child is capable of skillfully responding to their own failures. Regardless of whether they lost a soccer match, received a bad grade, or experienced any other unpleasantness, there will be many situations in their life where something will not go as planned. In today’s article, we will try to explain how to teach a child not to be afraid of mistakes.

How can a parent’s reaction to a child’s mistake affect them?

Parents may not realize that their reaction to their child’s mistakes can leave an indelible mark on how they experience their failure. The child’s endurance and self-confidence in the future depend on the words, intonation, and even gestures of the adults around them.

Researchers at Stanford University found that a parent’s attitude towards their child’s mistakes can shape their perception of their own intelligence and, in turn, influence their future.

In their study, scientists asked 73 parent-child pairs a series of questions related to failures and intelligence. The experiment involved students in 4-5th grade and their parents. The survey revealed a correlation between a parent’s attitude towards their child’s intelligence and the child’s perception of their own intelligence.

Researchers believe that this is related to the signal that parents send to their children. For example, adults who reacted with concern about a low grade can impress upon their child that their grade will not improve. This group of parents believes that their child’s intelligence remains at the same level, and there is no point in striving for a better result. However, those parents who did not react in such a way to a bad grade let their children know that intelligence is not an indicator of a bad grade. They believe that a grade can be improved by making an effort.

“Children’s beliefs about intelligence have a huge influence on how well they learn,” says Kayla Haimovitz, PhD, author of the study and research fellow at the Department of Psychology at Stanford University.

We turned to this study for a reason. Parents are the ones who can guide their child in the right direction. However, in order to teach children not to be afraid of mistakes, adults need to first understand the principles of an adequate reaction.

Teaching a child not to get upset

To help a child overcome their fear of making mistakes, take note of a few simple rules:

  • Pay attention to the child’s reaction after making a mistake. If the child gets angry, try to find out if they are directing that emotion towards themselves or the situation that happened to them. During the conversation, help them direct the negative feeling in the right direction. As an option, it can be transformed into a desire to make every effort to correct their mistake.
  • Focus the child on the perspective. Instead of emphasizing the mistake, redirect the focus on how to avoid it next time. Remind the child that everything that went wrong can be a good experience for what to do or not to do in the future.
  • Focus on the process, not the result. Help the child direct their energy towards developing a strategy for the future and focus on the pleasure of the activity in which they made a mistake.
  • Do not pity the child. When you try to comfort the child, it can evoke pity. This feeling can send the child the wrong signal that they are incapable of correcting the situation.
  • Explain that making mistakes is normal. Make sure to tell the child that the mistake they made does not define who they are. Give examples from your own experience when you made mistakes and explain how you corrected them. Convince the child that everyone makes mistakes.
  • Encourage the child. Strengthen the child’s self-esteem and instill confidence in them that they should not “give up” on their activities. By diverting attention from the immediate problem, the child can focus on new strategies and ideas on how to better solve the problem next time.
  • Do not correct the mistake for your child. Yes, it is important to support the child morally, but that does not mean that you should correct their mistakes for them. The child is an individual. They should take responsibility for their mistakes on their own.

Michael Jordan, one of the greatest athletes in the world, preached the importance of defeats for years. Jordan talked a lot about how persistence and perseverance in the face of problems on and off the court made him a winner. Provide children with examples of successful people’s failures – this is a good source of motivation.

What are the consequences of children’s inadequate reaction to mistakes?

Above, we discussed how not to upset the child over failures. Now, let’s clarify the consequences of the child’s acute perception of mistakes:

  • Lowered self-esteem. The child may start to feel that they never do anything right and stop trying to improve their skills.
  • Fear of new tasks. If the child is afraid of making mistakes, they may become indecisive when performing new tasks.
  • Lack of motivation. Disappointed children may lose interest in learning new areas of activity and in developing their existing skills.
  • Difficulties in social interactions. Lack of confidence can lead to alienation and isolation from society.
  • Negative emotions and conflicts. A painful reaction to failures can lead to the expression of negative emotions such as irritation, anger, and aggression. This can prompt the child to have conflicts with other children and adults.

Unfortunately, even the smallest mistake can be remembered by the child for many years. If you notice that they take any failure to heart, consider visiting a child psychologist as a solution to the problem.

Mistakes are an integral part of life. However, children will achieve positive results only if they can learn to cope with all the difficulties that life throws at them.

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