I am not sure how it evolved, I’m sure the product of my childhood, but I grew up thinking everything was supposed to be perfect. If it wasn’t, then something is wrong. Still as an adult, I struggle with this. I must be a perfect husband. I have to be a perfect father, etc. While striving for positivity and growth is good, it can also be a no-win situation. If you don’t have self-acceptance, you are screwed.
I also fellt like those around me should be perfect as well. When we create these kind of expectations, we will never be happy, satisfied, and we certainly won’t create value and support for those around us. You are setting everyone up to fail.
I have been thinking about this a lot lately. When we mess up or our kids mess up, we really don’t want to be corrected. We more than likely want empathy, maybe some re-assurance, and some love. Recently my 8 year old son was doing an activity he really enjoys. Something he is really good at. However he made a mistake and the outcome was not what he wanted. He was really upset at himself. I totally saw myself in him at that moment. I am really hard on myself as well. My parents never really needed to say anything about my grades or sports. I was really hard on myself. Certainly as a parent, I did not need to correct him and point out his mistake. I did not intervene and instead saw him work to recover himself from the situation.
I thought for quite a while what I would want someone to say to me when this happens. I would want to know that making mistakes are ok.
After the situation was done, I said to him, “It looks like you felt like you made a mistake. Why did that bother you?” After him explaining how he felt and why he wasn’t good at it, etc…i said “you know, will probably make a lot of mistakes. But you know what, that is totally ok. No matter what happens, I love you no different. You could make a hundred mistakes and it doesn’t matter. Your mom and your sister and everyone around you loves you no different. Regardless of how many mistakes you make, we love you and think you are awesome. I understand making mistakes can be frustrating, but it’s important to learn from them. You might even make the same mistake multiple times. It still doesn’t matter.
This is where I wish i could talk to myself at 8 years old confirming how mistakes are ok and you are just as good of a person. The key for us as dads is to not get upset with them or just say everything will be ok. They are not feeling ok. We need to empathize with them.
We are typically scared of mistakes because of how we think other people will see us or judge us. or maybe we won’t be loved. or maybe someone won’t want to be around us.
Here are ways to handle mistakes:
1) Tell them it’s ok to make mistakes. They don’t need to be perfect – They are going to makes mistakes, and it’s ok.
2) Model the recovery – when we make a mistake, own it and then communicate what should/could have been done instead
3) Praise them when they admit the mistake – “Thank you for telling me.”
4) Encourage them to own it and not blame other people or things
5) Don’t point out past mistakes. Focus on what you are currently dealing with
6) Share mistakes you have made that may relaIte
7) Tell them and show them we love them unconditionally.