There are few worse feelings than knowing that you’ve made a horrible, seemingly unfixable mistake. The guilt can feel like it will go on forever.
Until, suddenly, the panic clears and you realise that your mistake is fixable after all – not only that, but it might even make you a better person because of it.
The thing is, a lot of good can come from a bad mistake – as long as you know how to fix it. While it may be too late for us to really appreciate that, it’s not too late to teach our kids.
We’re not suggesting you tell them to go around making mistakes, but rather to abandon the feeling that everyone is perfect all the time. In the wise words of Hannah Montana, “Nobody’s perfect.”
So, the question isn’t ‘how to avoid making mistakes’ – it’s how to respond when you inevitably make them. Here are five things you should always do when you make a mistake.
Making a mistake is often a subconscious or accidental act – lying, denying or backpedalling to cover it up is always deliberate, and therefore harder to forgive. Teach your children that trying to lie their way out of a mistake will only exacerbate the problem, and use real life examples as learning opportunities (maybe they’ve snuck a treat they shouldn’t have, or lied about using their device when they weren’t supposed to?). Your kids should understand that, as soon as they make a mistake, it’s always best to face it.
Knowing how to apologise – and apologise properly – is a fundamental life skill, equally as important as owning your mistakes (and often more so). Half-hearted ‘sorries’ won’t cut it once your children become adults, so teach them how to listen to what the other person is saying and actually learn from it. Make sure they understand that words like ‘but’ have no place in an apology; instead of saying, ‘I’m sorry, but I did it because…,’ they should say, ‘I’m sorry, the reason I did it is because…’(one shifts the blame, the other accepts it). (one shifts the blame, the other accepts it).
Offer a realistic solutionMistakes often feel unf
Mistakes often feel unfixable, but the truth is, there’s always a solution: it just may not be the most appealing. Encourage your children to come to you with any mistakes they’ve made so that you can work it out together (two heads are better than one, after all) so that they see how easily mistakes can be resolved. If your child can go through life understanding that it’s better to present a problem and a solution, rather than just a problem, they’ll except not only in their social lives, but career-wise, too.
Your child should know that making a mistake doesn’t make them a bad person – acting in a disrespectful way after they’ve made a mistake, however, will make people see them in a bad light. Instead of trying to shift the blame, teach your child the importance of accepting when they have done wrong by someone and thinking more about the other person than themselves. This might mean changing their actions after someone has forgiven their mistake, or giving the other person space and time if they haven’t.
On that same note, your child needs to know the importance of actually listening to how your actions have implicated others – it’s the first step to developing empathy, and also the most effective way to ensure they don’t make the same mistake again. Listening can also be a proactive way to avoid mistakes, as well as a reactive way to fix them. In fact, while you’re teaching your children all about how to fix a mistake, listen and pay attention to the ways that they resolve issues – you just might learn something, too.