“Mistakes?!” you may say in wonderment. “But I’m teaching my child to AVOID making mistakes—I want him to have a perfect photographic memory!”
“Yes, mistakes! “ we say, because until you can encourage a child to jump into learning with a completely carefree attitude toward learning, all barriers will disappear. Beyond the importance of relaxing your expectations, mistakes have great value in being teachers in and of themselves. You learn more through trial and error than if you got it right in the first place. When you feel free to make mistakes without shame, you are set free—like a bird let out of its cage.
Here's a story from our Wink handbook to illustrate the point.
6-year-old Katie attended class alone, while her mother played outside with her younger brother, a very active toddler. Katie was very articulate and had a sharp mind. She noticed everything. She was also self-critical and self-conscious. She had “bridged” over to the left brain early in her life.
Right brain fantasy was harder work for her than others her age. When we played photographic memory games, she would take forever to answer because she didn’t want to make a mistake. She was so locked into the left-brain way of doing things that she wasn’t having fun.
Then an idea popped into my head.
“Katie, today we’re going to play ‘20 Mistakes,’” I said at the beginning of the lesson one day. “In this game, it’s important to make mistakes.”
She had a new quizzical expression I’d not seen before.
“Yes. You need to give 20 wrong answers so that you can register what they feel like. After the first 20 mistakes, your right brain will take over and begin to give you the correct answers. It may happen before then— everyone is different.”
I laid out a mat with 12 colored fish—some with stripes, some with dots, some solid. I had her mind “take a picture” of the mat and then close her eyes when she was ready. When she did, I asked her how many striped fish were there.
“Five,” she finally said.
“Great! There’s four. Now, when you thought five, remember how you felt. We’re teaching your body and brain something new. You’re doing really well. You made a mistake! Great! You have 19 more.”
She made one more mistake and then something happened.
With eyes still closed, she exhaled deeply and “shifted”... I’m not sure how to describe it further. It was the first time I’d seen her this relaxed and peaceful.
I continued, “How many solid fish?”
“Four.” she replied softly.
“How many striped fish?”
“How many have blue on them?”
“How about green?”
“Katie.” Her eyes opened.
“After the second question, you got every one of them right,” I smiled.
“Really?” her eyes were wide.
She felt so good about herself!
It's good to think about how you, yourself, view mistakes. If you have a relaxed attitude about them, then you can truly transfer this peace to your child. Here are a few more words of wisdom on the subject…
“A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.”
- James Joyce