Owning Their Mistake Can Teach Students Valuable Lesson by Jennifer Seibert
It happens to everyone. Every student makes a mistake or an error in judgment at some point. Missing homework, a low test grade, a forgotten lunch, a snippy attitude, a touch of laziness — it happens to everyone. But how we respond as parents and educators is what matters most. The key is not to panic. As a mom, I understand the magnitude of some of the mistakes our children make. But we must do our best to stay calm, no matter what. Our children need this the most. They get their strength from us.
Over the years, I have watched students, including my own, forget homework and then watched as parents rush home and then back to the school to get it turned in on time. I have done this myself and regretted it. What if we didn’t do that; what if we didn’t rescue our children from every little mistake? What if our children had to own their mistake? Would that be the end of the world? Or would it teach our children valuable lessons about making mistakes and the world not ending, about communication with adults and about responsibility on them rather than on their parents. These are valuable lessons that should make a valuable impression.
Taking a backseat and letting our children fall or fail at small tasks might in the end save them from falling or failing in a major way. Of course, this makes us crazy as parents, but what makes us crazy when they are young will most certainly save us when they are older.
Let’s band together and force our children to be responsible good communicators and excellent problem-solvers who know that mistakes happen and can be forgiven.
Several of my colleagues and friends have adopted this approach with their own children. I watched one mom in a conversation with her young son after he rode the wrong school bus. She asked him one simple question: “What did you learn from this?” And in brilliant form he responded that he told the bus driver that he was on the wrong bus and even if he would have ended up at the wrong destination, he knew how to handle it. She followed up with, “Will you get on the wrong bus again?” Guess what? He won’t. This is a proud mom moment.
I watched in amazement at another student who forgot her lunch. Her dad said sweetly and bluntly that eating a meal in the cafeteria would not be the death of her. Guess what? She eats in the cafeteria frequently now. These parents remained calm, didn’t panic or rush to bring the lunch or chase down the bus. Amazing.
I have come to the realization with my own children that failing at something is OK. My son (who I think is perfect and brilliant, of course) recently had a missing assignment. He had the opportunity to redo the assignment but left it in his locker overnight. I could have beat on the door of the school until a custodian let me in or called the teacher and begged for mercy. But, I didn’t. I made him take responsibility. I made him own his mistake. I showed him what a zero does to a good average. I showed him that being an “A” student can turn into a “C” student in a hurry. I helped him with the words he needed to use the next day when speaking to his teacher and gave him the confidence to own the mistake. But, I drew the line there. He owned this mistake. And I bet it doesn’t happen again anytime soon. And if it does, we will calmy work through it again together.
As a principal, I console upset parents daily when their child makes a mistake or an error in judgment. I remind them that sometimes, as adults, we are late to work, forget something at home, or miss a deadline. Mistakes happen to us all. I do my best to explain that mistakes are much easier to swallow when our kids are little, and turning mistakes into a learning lesson is a great opportunity. As parents, we must realize that we all make mistakes and that is OK. As educators, we must also realize that we all make mistakes. Our children are only in our homes and in our schools for such a short time. Capitalize on this time, and work with us to help make mistakes a learning lesson and not a catastrophe. I promise, life does go on after forgetting a lunch box or forgetting to turn in an assignment. Life goes on.