Mistakes can make for a learning experience

Have you ever had a boss who never had anything to say about the good work you did, but also never hesitated to come down on you on when you made a mistake or had an off day?

It is a frustrating thing, isn’t it? And, oh is it deadly to workplace morale. You aren’t recognized for the good you do, but your mishaps are magnified to the tenth power.

Well, some say “no news is good news”, that means that as long as no one is telling you something is bad or wrong, then it is “all good”, or “all right”. In some cases that may be true, but the notion here is one that implies that somehow it is satisfactory to never acknowledge one’s contributions unless they fall below expectations.

Not everyone needs to be recognized for “all” the good things they do all of the time, but I don’t know of anyone who would mind being recognized for “some” of the good things they do, at least some of the time. It serves as motivation to keep giving your best effort and a little recognition of the good, makes you feel appreciated and validated. It reinforces your beliefs about your talents and abilities.

My mind goes to how children are especially susceptible to experiencing doubt about their talents and abilities when they are not validated for their efforts. I think that it is a costly mistake parents make who constantly come down hard on their children when they make mistakes, mess up, or otherwise get it wrong while rarely praising them when they get it right. As I thought about this further, however, I realized that even when a boss or parent is addressing the “wrong”, there are “many right” ways to go about it.

Parents and teachers can speak to a child’s mistakes and mess ups in a way that has the potential to break their spirits. That is, shatter their confidence and injure their self-esteem. This is a consequence that can have a lasting impact in a child’s life well into adulthood.

Alternatively, parents and teachers can speak to a child’s mistakes and mess ups in ways that build them up, supplying a healthy dose of encouragement and support. This approach ensures that children can envision possibilities for themselves and are not entrapped by limiting beliefs.

Children will get things wrong sometimes, as they should, but these are not the only times parents should have anything to say. It is a myth to think that withholding encouragement and praise for the good will produce more good. Whatever you reinforce is what you will likely get the most of, but this is not to say that you should not address when things aren’t going well. Whether it is problems at school, trouble with homework, poor decision-making, or whatever the case may be, parents and teachers should choose an approach that does not diminish the individual. Instead, look for ways to educate and strengthen the individual.

It is such a huge responsibility to be “in charge” of children in whatever capacity. Honor your role in a child’s life today by speaking to their potential, their strengths, and their goodness.

Be encouraged.

Contact columnist LaTonya Dunn at ln_dunn@yahoo.com.