Coping with mistakes

mistake-bottle-hand-gifted-ideasDear GHF,

My son absolutely hates making mistakes. Even a small mistake can lead to big drama at our house. I’ve heard so much about how important it is to learn from mistakes, but how can I encourage that when my child is so set against it? He won’t even look at his errors—he’d rather crumple up a paper or project and throw it away, never to be seen again.

Batty in Buenos Aires

Dear Batty,

Your son has really taken his mistakes to heart, and not in a healthy way. That must be so frustrating for both of you. This, unfortunately, is a pretty common occurrence in the world of gifted. Kids can get so wrapped up in whether or not they are “right” or “good enough,” that making a mistake can trigger a lot of feelings of failure.

Fortunately, you can do something about it! Some families benefit from taking a big-picture approach, and working towards making a family culture that responds to mistakes in a productive way. You might try playing games that offer different possible outcomes, deliberately choosing work and projects that have multiple “right” answers, and cultivating an attitude of “Gosh, that was unexpected. What can I try next?” All of these possibilities can help loosen up a child’s strong negative reactions to failure, and leave space for more learning.

In thinking about why kids tend to get frustrated rather than inspired by failure, it’s worth noting that our society rarely allows any of us the opportunities to return to mistakes in a setting that invites us to further explore possibilities. Immediate results are what count. In the classroom as in the workplace, kids rarely have the chance to make mistakes and learn from them. If they fail, they fail, and the class—or group or team—moves on.

As homeschoolers with flexibility, on the other hand, we can allow for those opportunities, and even plan for them and encourage them. Give kids another chance. Don’t worry about grading initial effort; pay more attention to what can be learned or what might be a different approach. When your child presents you with a project, don’t assume it is “complete” until you have talked it over with them. It may be that there is more yet to learn from it—if not now, then later. You may find that you are able to turn this dramatic stumbling block into a valuable skill that will serve him for his entire life.

For more ideas, help, and insight, check out GHF’s Articles page.

Return to Dear GHF main page.

Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *