Every day every one of the 5 billion people on this planet makes a mistake. No one is exempt. It is the nature of the human condition for people to flub - regularly - as they stretch and grow in this life.
A question for all of us is this: Can we allow others their fallibility? Can we let them to make mistakes - as is their nature - without penalty? Even if they are the people we are in charge of - our children? The acid test for such a release results when something of value to you is at stake - perhaps an object, or your time, attention or schedule.Take the case of Jenny, whose "test" came when she was making a double batch of waffles with her 8-year-old daughter. Eager to help, the daughter grabbed the bowl of batter out of Jenny's hands to place it by the waffle iron.
Up in the air went the bowl and down came the batter, spattering all over the kitchen.
Seeing her daughter's tears and broken heart, Jenny stopped herself from delivering the scolding on the tip of her tongue. Catching her breath, she said quietly, "It was just an accident." And then with a note of glee in her voice, she turned toward her husband and said, "Don't worry about it, honey. DADDY WILL CLEAN UP THE MESS and you and I will make another batch of waffles."
Jenny remembered something at that point - the lemon meringue pie she turned upside down years ago when she had tried to help her own mother. Her daughter had done nothing more than make the same kind of mistake Jenny made when she was young.
As you think about giving kids more latitude to make mistakes, consider how several parents have worked on this goal with their families. Relates a father, "The other day my 4-year-old dropped his cookie, which left some crumbs on the floor. As he looked at me, I just picked up the cookie - blew it off - and handed it to him while I kissed him on the forehead. It was a new experience for both of us. I didn't pounce on him simply because he make a mistake."
Relates a mother, "Twenty years ago, when I had four young children, my husband and I asked his parents out for a really nice dinner, and one of the kids spilled his milk. As I reacted with frustration, my father-in-law said, `If you'll just accept the fact that milk spills at every meal, it won't bother you anymore.' I've tried to apply that philosophy over the years with my children, which has saved us all substantial `wear-and-tear.' "
Relates another mother, "I told my children something I had read recently - that we're all allowed to make 10 mistakes a day and that - when we we do err - we should remind ourselves of this margin.
"Then one day my kids were carrying in the groceries and one of them dropped a bag. A big bottle of spaghetti sauce broke and splattered all over. My child pointed out the obvious: `Mom, I made a BIG mess!' to which I responded, `That's OK, we all get to make 10 mistakes a day.' " `But I've already made five,' he observed.
" `Well, this just makes six,' I said. That put a big smile on his face."
Yet another woman relates, "I've tried to deal with my children's mistakes with humor. Just recently, my son (who has four younger sisters and doesn't get along with them that well), came bombarding down the stairs, shouting, `I'm so sick of these sisters! They're always getting into my stuff. I want a padlock on the door!'
"However, just before he showed up, I had gone into the laundry room and saw that he had taken all the clean laundry and thrown it on the floor, looking for a shirt. I was mad about it, but I didn't say anything while he was talking. I just counted to 10.
"He went back upstairs, came back down and said the same thing to me about his sisters. I looked at him and very calmly said, `I know JUST how you feel. Someone went into the laundry room and pulled out all the clean clothes out of the dryer! It makes me so mad I guess I'll just have to put a padlock on the laundry room door!' That brought him to a screeching halt, and we were both able to laugh about the situation."
Finally, a mother says, "My 5-year-old is perfectionistic - just like me. He also sings. While he was performing the other day, he missed a couple of words.
"Afterward, his teacher gave him a treat and he said, `I don't think she would have given me that treat had she known I messed up on those two words.'
"At that point I realized I needed to do something to help him be less critical of himself. Our family already had a tradition of sharing special things at the dinner table, so I suggested we just add the faux pas we make every day. Now we just have good hearty laughs over our mistakes and simply delight in being human. The kids have learned it's OK to mess up."
The last line about sums it up. The challenge it is to let kids know that it REALLY IS OK to mess up! (And, of course, to believe that yourself!).