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Help preschoolers make mistakes

“Wrong”, “mistake”, “fail” are all words that carry a negative meaning in our society and we have learnt to do our best in order to avoid them as much as possible and to thrive for the opposite. However, as we learn more about how other societies and countries view them, we also understand the value of being wrong, making mistakes and facing failures. These words do not necessarily have to have a negative meaning, if we do not put them in those contexts. Making mistakes can be a good thing if we learn how to see it in a more positive light and as adults, we can help preschoolers understand that.

  1. Celebrating mistakes

Perhaps the phrase ‘celebrating mistakes’ is something quite foreign for us. Celebration means something does well while mistakes is something that is not done well. So it seems ironic to be celebrating mistakes. So, how often do we celebrate mistakes? It is definitely not as often as how we would celebrate success. Yet there are times where mistakes can lead to success when we learn from these mistakes. At the same time, these mistakes give us information on how we should head next from there. While we understand that, learning how to celebrate mistakes may first require more effort from us to change the way we think and the way we react to situations.

A good example of how we could change our way of thinking is by referencing how one thinks when doing a maze. Not all roads lead to the exit, but we can’t possibly know which road will lead to it till we walk through them. Only by walking through some of the ‘right’ routes and some of the ‘wrong’ routes, and gaining information from them are we able to then eliminate the routes that are not possible and successfully get to the exit. We can apply our mindset in doing mazes to how we would react when facing mistakes. This way, we also encourage toddlers and preschoolers to keep trying as they know that they can do so without being judged by the outcome of it.

Another example is block building. These building blocks can actually be pretty fragile and easily destroyed. Many times when a building block is destroyed after much time and effort, it may feel like their world is shattered. Therefore, how we react to it matters. Do we get angry at the person who destroyed it? Or do we laugh it off and think positively, that now this gives us a chance to build a better and nicer structure than the one destroyed? We cannot control how others may affect us but we can control how we decide to react to it. Though the ‘mistake’ or ‘error’ may be performed by others purposely or accidentally, we can still view it positively. This will also change the way the other person acts in future.

  1. What comes next?

When we classify things and actions as wrong or right, we have put a judgement on the matter. As such, we may start to see actions of ‘tattling’ where preschoolers come telling tales about another person’s wrongdoings, expecting to see that the other person is scolded or punished for doing so. However, we must be very careful. While there are things we should do or should not do, we should not mix them up with making mistakes. Tattling on a mistake will then be viewed as a form of humiliation to the person. Therefore, instead of encouraging tattling, perhaps if the emphasis is placed on what is done next, there will be less tattling cases and the communication between children will be better. The consequence of making a mistake and the consequence of doing something they should not do needs to be clear to the children, so the actions from the adults need to be well differentiated.

  1. Not giving up

Perseverance is a good trait to have. We hope that our children will not give up easily but are our actions helping them to act this way? It is easy to give up when we keep getting setbacks. The essence of not giving up is in how one views these setbacks. Do these setbacks mean that we are heading towards failure or do they help us in achieving success? When children believe that they can do better the next time, they will be more compelled to try again and this belief they have can be instilled by people around them. Each time we hit a setback, we feel frustration on our own already, and children do have the same feeling too. So the next time they hit a setback, we can take note of how we react to it. By giving them more encouragement instead of disapproval, they can then gain strength and courage to try again.

  1. Embracing mistakes

Though we thrive to be perfect, it will be difficult to achieve perfection. The art of ‘wabi sabi’ is something we can take notes in view of trying to be perfect and when facing mistakes. Learning to live with imperfection helps us to learn how to embrace mistakes as it is part and parcel of our life. When adults show that they can own up to their mistakes and admit that they did something wrong, it also helps children realise that mistakes are not all that bad and there’s no shame in admitting to it. They can then start to view mistakes as a stepping stone and know how to turn these mistakes into a lesson learnt and move forward from there.

This concept of celebrating mistakes may not be so easily conveyed to toddlers and preschoolers, as it may be difficult even for us as adults to practise it. However, it is important that we continue to try to adopt this new mindset and use our actions to show it to them. They can then learn from our actions and reactions to matters and that will shape how they view and treat mistakes in future.

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Blk 433 Tampines Street 43 #01-63/65 S(520433)

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