Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A map-shaped chapatti, and other ‘mistakes’.

‘I made a mistake,’ the four year old said, very upset with herself, holding the chapati that looked like the map of some strange country.
‘And what will happen if you made a mistake?‘ I asked. ‘Will your little nose grow wings and fly away?’ She burst into giggles.  

What is it that makes us believe that mistakes are ‘bad’, that it’s ‘wrong’ to make them?
 Yes, we’ve been taught, and admonished, time and again, that not doing the ‘textbook’ thing, veering off a prescribed path, or writing in black ink instead of blue, was ‘wrong’. 
And thanks to that, we’ve come to beat ourselves up too - Don’t you keep beating yourself up / start to feel guilty if you yelled at your kid in the heat of the moment? Or put the wrong slide in the PPT? Or mixed the whites with the coloreds?  It comes so easily to us.  

But we don’t want our kids to grow up thinking that it’s wrong to make a mistake, do we? So for our own sakes and therefore for our children, let’s say aloud, yes, aloud :).  
It’s ok to make a mistake.

Hello, Chris Columbus’ discovery of America was a mistake.
And mistakes are about discovery. Finding the ‘Oh this is a shorter route!’, or ‘Hmm, this color isn’t so bad,’ Or damn, better not to not invite those people the next time’. Making mistakes are part of our everyday existence, and part of living, learning and growing as human beings.  
We all make mistakes!  Teachers and Presidents. People with super IQs, and loads of experience.

So let’s allow ourselves, and our children to make them . They will learn not to beat themselves up and see it for what it is. ‘A mistake’. A detour. A different way to finding a solution.  And in being unafraid of making a mistake, will try harder the next time, and so choose adventure and fun.  

If a child is made to feel like a failure, (read that as ‘Why are you making a mistake, you silly child?’/ ‘How can you do that?’, and ‘What is wrong with you?’), she will most likely feel inadequate, and often give up. Or not begin at all. Or just end up making ‘more mistakes’ out of fear. Sad, huh?

So let’s be compassionate, to ourselves, and to our children. To remember that making mistakes do not makes us small, less, or weak, and won’t make any of our body parts disappear. That it’s ok not to know something. That we can’t possibly know everything, or be ‘efficient’, ‘smart’, alert’ all the time –Sure  Einstein came up with the Theory of relativity, but d’you think he’d know how to burp a baby.

What making mistakes will do is, let us learn. Give us a chance to make better decisions the Next time armed with knowledge they didn’t have before.
And when we know it’s ok to make one, it’s so much easier to admit it, to let go of the torment of having made it, the embarrassment and guilt. 

So encourage mistakes, and funny-looking chapattis, so that they may dare to dream big, and learn from loads of mistakes along the way.

And yes, when your child says her night prayers, maybe add this - ‘And dear lord, thank you for all the mistakes I made today, and the ones I make tomorrow.’  It lets you, and them remember that what you did, and what you do, is ok.

An example conversation: She makes a mistake. What do you say to her? ‘It’s ok sweetheart. Everyone makes mistakes. But let’s see...now. What do you think we can do about it? Is there another way to do this?’ OR ‘What did you learn’ At first – because she’s been conditioned to follow one ‘right’ path, she may not know, or be hesitant. Help her by saying, ‘Ok what if you changed this?)


  1. Thank you for writing this! :) and i loved the idea of being grateful for our mistakes, in prayer.

  2. If we didn't make mistakes we wont need a god anymore would we???

  3. Joanie spot on ! A child who never made mistakes never made anything !