The Gift of Imperfection

Do you have children in your classroom or your own child who feels like they must do everything right? Whatever they do needs to come out perfectly or they're unhappy and distressed?

The best gift that you can give them is to teach them that imperfection is OK! That nothing is truly perfect!  Teach them that mistakes are how we learn and our greatest opportunity for growth.  Mistakes help us understand something even better and give us ideas of how to try it differently the next time.  Mistakes are Learning Opportunities!

When children don't understand that mistakes are acceptable, they create an expectation for themselves that's impossible to live up to, often creating self-doubt and insecurity.   For many children, this belief facilitates a reluctance to take risks, which is a trait that is hugely important in their lives, both academically and otherwise.  

Children need to feel safe enough to take the risks in their learning (ex. being willing to experiment or ask questions), in relationships (ex. asking a friend for help) and in many other aspects of their lives.  Of course, we want them to be reasonable about the risks that they're taking, but if they feel like they must be perfect, they will be reluctant to try new things to avoid making any mistakes or failing.  These children only to do the things where they know they can succeed, which results in a very limited approach to and quality of life.  You may know adults that still live this way.

Give them a gift that will last a lifetime! Slowly move them into the understanding that mistakes are OK and they help us learn to be better, stronger, faster, smarter, and more courageous!  Even superheroes make mistakes!

One of the best ways to do this is to admit your own mistakes.   Help children see that you're brave enough to admit mistakes and own them.  Show that you are willing to look at what you've learned, how you recognize the changes that could be made and acknowledge that you'll do it differently the next time.  As a classroom teacher, a mother, and an administrator, relationships always grew stronger when I was willing to own my mistakes and imperfections.   Sometimes the admission of a mistake even involves an apology.  If it is appropriate, you are truly teaching a life lesson by showing a child how to apologize with sincerity and grace.

As young adult, my father told me that one major regret he'd had as I was growing up was that he had not communicated to me that I didn't need to be perfect.  That mistakes are not only acceptable, but an important part of learning in life.  Thus, the Gift of Imperfection.  Share that gift with the children that you're interacting with each day, so they don't have to wait until adulthood to figure it out.  When they make a mistake, show them how to learn from it, discovering new pieces and processes to change in the future. 

You will typically not find this skill in the list of standards and benchmarks.  You WILL find it resonates in all areas of learning and personal growth.  As teachers, we watch children learning and use their mistakes to know where to help reteach, adjust misunderstandings and scaffold learning.  Use this skill set, that mistakes are opportunities for learning, as a tool for facilitating children’s own metacognition!

Finally, always remember that your reactions and behaviors are modeling for children every moment.  Communicate daily to your children that things don't have to be Perfect to be Wonderful!!!

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