My 6 year old was reticent to tell me about a problem she’d had at school the other day. This is unusual for her, she’s rarely quiet. I coaxed it out of her and it seems that she struggled that day with some comprehension work she was doing within her guided reading group. Hardly a huge problem, I know, but it had clearly troubled her.
And that’s when it hit me, that’s when I realised what I needed to do to help her through this one.
You see, my daughter does well at school. Well, she pretty much does well at everything. She reads well beyond her age, she is creative in her writing and talented at drawing. She’ll try new things and love them, throwing herself into them so that things like learning how to ride a bike took her no more than a few minutes. And no, this isn’t a bragging post, not in the slightest, but this all illustrates the point that I’m getting to.
She does not know what it’s like to have to overcome difficulties, to persevere, to make mistakes. She has not been the child struggling to catch up, to have to strive to make sense of their work. But here she was, not understanding something and not quite knowing what to do about it. It’s unknown territory for her, and wrapped up within that were her worries about getting it wrong.
I needed to teach her that getting things wrong is actually OK. That not everything will come easily and she’ll have to work harder on some things than on others. That it’s actually the ‘having a go’ that she needs to concentrate on rather than solely the outcome.
We talked it over, addressed her concerns of ‘what if I get it wrong?’ and I reassured her. It’s absolutely fine to get things wrong. It can be useful getting things wrong so that you can learn new things. I get things wrong all the time, and I’m happy with that (well, OK, that’s not entirely true every single time, but hey ho!).
In all seriousness, though, however big or small, I’d like to teach my kids to see mistakes, errors and failures in a good light. To see difficulties as challenges, yet not insurmountable. I don’t want to see them knocked by them too much. I’d like them to be able to ‘fail’, but then to pick themselves up, smile and keep on going. I think in days of so much academic pressure, which seems to be starting earlier and earlier, this is going to be a handy mindset to master, so I’ll do all I can to equip them with it.
I have a ‘nothing ventured nothing gained’ attitude, one where I’d be more concerned about the things that I didn’t have a go at through fear or indecision, rather than the things that I do try yet they don’t go the way I’d envisioned. In doing this, I invariably make mistakes along the way, but I also learn so much and know that at least I gave it a shot. I want to pass that mentality on.
I’d like my kids to have the desire to just try. I’ll encourage them to give things a go. I don’t want them to fear failure or the unknown, but to see things as a learn each time, an adventure, a stepping stone to who knows where. It’s a lesson that I’d like them to take on board. And then they can relax and enjoy all that comes from that first attempt.