The Importance of Being Imperfect

As a society, we celebrate success.  Getting into the best school is critical, and often the best school means the one with the highest test scores.  Good grades are either A or A+.  Giant foam hands with the index finger sticking up are available everywhere, we're #1!  We're the best!  We may root for the underdog but we would be thrilled if they began winning (Chicago Cubs fans, anyone?).

Mistakes are a great learning tool.  They usually don't feel very good, and the negative emotions associated with errors, mix-ups, goofs, you name it, are powerful reminders not to do that again.  

Intellectually we know that no-one is perfect and that we all make mistakes.  How can we help our children, and ourselves, embrace that fact?

We can practice "failure" with our children in small ways.  For example, when a child is assembling connecting blocks to make a structure that is top-heavy, rather than stepping in and showing them the right way to build, let them make the structure and have it fall over.  Then help them to take a step back and try to see what happened.  What went wrong, and where?  What is a better strategy for next time?

When we make a mistake, we can recruit kids to help us problem solve using the questions above.  If their suggestion doesn't work the way we think it will, this is another opportunity to try a different solution.  Treat their input as meaningful and give it a try, even if it seems silly.

Having the freedom to make mistakes teaches children to analyze, problem solve, cooperate and come up with new ideas to try.  It gives them the resilience they need to not become discouraged when life does not work out exactly as they expect, the creativity to come up with new solutions, and the courage to try them.  It can also develop empathy for other people when they themselves make mistakes.

Resilience, creativity, courage and empathy.   These are the skills that our children will need if they are to grow up to be happy, successful adults.

Let's celebrate the mistakes we make and the gifts they give us!