Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Encouraging Our Children #7

Don't view mistakes as failures.

Sure, that seems like easy advice to follow.  I admit when I read that sentence, I really imagine that we should allow our children to learn from mistakes. That seems obvious, and one can extrapolate the the value of allowing children to learn from mistakes.  Alexander Fleming is one key example of learning from mistakes. But that isn't really what Alyson Schafer's advice is.  She tells us parents not to view mistakes as failures.  Schafer claims:
We need to take away the stigma of failure.  Failure usually indicates a lack of skill.  One's worth is not dependent on success.
So I admit to be struggling a bit with her distinction.  Is she arguing that a mistake is not failure because failure indicates a lack of skill? So a mistake is simply an error or something that didn't go as well as it could have gone.  I accidentally colored outside the lines.  That would be a mistake.  Failure would be my inability to stay within the lines because I lack the motor skill and I have the attention span of a goldfish?  Okay, I could work with that definition, though it could get a bit tricky. 

I'll also admit to using an online dictionary to see how language archivists define those words. (Note: I am typically no fan of dictionaries because of their limitations, but I occasionally use them anyway because they do serve some good purposes.)  Here is what I found for failure.  Here is what I found for mistake. I can see a difference in degree, but they seem like they are nearly synonyms.  In fact, when used as a verb, they are

Enough ambling about in this post.  Help me out here.  What do you think?  First, what are the differences between mistakes and failure in relation to what children do?  Second, how do avoid viewing our children's mistakes as failures?

1 comment:

  1. The definitions are similar, and definitely limiting. I've come to think that a mistake is something we can learn from and failure would be not trying to learn from a mistake...so it depends on the person's attitude to determine a mistake from failure. Some people can be devastated by a mistake or held back because of fear of making a mistake...so the mistake for that person is failure. If one chooses to get back in the saddle and learn from the mistake, then it's an educational tool that prevents failure. But what do I know..I make tons of mistakes and just keep trying, Maybe I'm a failure and too stubborn to realize it! Ignorance is bliss!