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Grandmother and Her Granddaughter Face-to-Face

Mistakes: Opportunities to Learn Resilience

My 7-year-old granddaughter asked me for some juice. I poured the juice into a cup with a top and a straw. You know, the spill-proof kind. Within five minutes the juice spilled. My granddaughter and I quickly worked together to clean it up. When we finished, she said, “I think we both made mistakes. You didn’t put the top on tight, and I knocked it over.” My first instinct was to defend my position and tell her she was being careless when she spilled the juice! Deep breath. What do I really want her to learn from this “mistake?” Mistakes are opportunities to learn. Reframe: “Yes, I should check the lid, and you can double-check to make sure it is tight. Where do you think you could put a juice cup so it is less likely to get bumped and spill?”

Realistically, spills and many other mishaps are a part of childhood. Relating to our children and their inevitable mistakes offers us opportunities to teach and build resilience together.

After all, my granddaughter’s well-being is more important to me than a sticky floor. Floors can be mopped. It is important to teach children to respect property and take good care of things. However, we also want children to feel worthy of respect and good care, too.

When we respond intentionally, we help them develop a resilient attitude based on a foundation of care.

Tried and true strategies include:

  • Admit when you make a mistake. “I forgot to pick up milk on the way home. We all forget things sometimes. I’ll write myself a note, so I won’t forget tomorrow.”
  • Focus on solutions, rather than blame. “Oh boy, I can see you are disappointed in that spelling grade. What could you differently next time you have a spelling test?”
  • Take time for training. “When juice gets spilled, we have to clean it up with a wet cloth or a mop so it won’t stay sticky.”
  • Be encouraging – celebrate each step in the direction of improvement rather than focusing on the result. “Look at that, you stayed up twice as long on the bike this time. You’re getting it!”
  • Make consequences logical, relatable, and reasonable. “We agreed no phone after 9 p.m. It is 9:30 p.m. and you are still texting friends. You’ve lost the privilege of using your phone tomorrow.”

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About Michele Tryon, CCLS

About Michele  Tryon, CCLS Michele Tryon, CHKD community outreach coordinator and parent educator has worked with children and families for 30 years, providing services in the hospital, home, school and community setting. Michele is a Certified Child Life Specialist, a Certified Positive Discipline™ parent educator, a nationally recognized trainer/consultant for Nurturing Parenting Programs™ and co-author of The Nurturing Program for Parents and Their Children with Special Needs and Health Challenges©.