What You Tell Your Kids After They Make A Mistake Will Stay With Them For Life

In my work helping people overcome limiting beliefs about themselves, I’ve found that there is specifically ONE common belief responsible for the negative patterns that get in the way of creating the life we want.

This one belief is responsible for most troublesome behavior patterns in people, from fear of public speaking to procrastination to not being able to leave a job they hate to fear of taking chances.

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Now, here’s the most important information for you as a parent: this fear starts in childhood. And it happens as a result of how parents react to us.

To give you a hint about what this belief could be, I want to give you a scenario:

Close your eyes and imagine you are a child and you just spilled your milk.

There it is—the whole contents of the glass crawling across the kitchen table. Now imagine that your mom comes in and says:

“What’s wrong with you? Can’t you watch what you’re doing?”

I have two questions for you:

How would you feel if your mom said this to you? What would you likely conclude?

How Parental Response Shapes A Child’s Sense Of Self

Did you ever have a parent express disappointment and upset because you made a mistake like spilling your milk?

If so, I’m betting that in that moment, you felt really bad about yourself. You would have felt shame, and you would have concluded there must be something terribly wrong with you.

You would have thought, “Gee, I guess that if I spilled my milk, it must mean that I don’t know how to do things right.”

What else would you conclude?

How about that making mistakes is a very bad thing that needs to be avoided at all costs? How about that there will be negative consequences whenever you make a mistake?

Mom’s upset may have lasted no more than a minute, but can you see how the child’s belief can affect him for a lifetime?

Almost every person I’ve ever worked with has the belief that mistakes and failures are bad.

If you get yelled at every time you spill and drop something or break something or do something you are not supposed to do, is it any wonder that this is what you’re going to conclude?

Let’s take a closer look at how these beliefs got formed.

“Mistakes And Failures Are Bad”: The Birth Of A Faulty Belief

No matter what age you are, most of our parents were raised in an industrial society.

In fact, when we went from an agrarian society to an industrial society, school compulsory education was designed to teach kids how to work in a factory.

On the factory floor—and especially on an assembly line—if you screwed up and made a mistake, it was costly.

But do we live in an industrial society anymore? Of course not, we live in an information age.

In an information age, can you be successful without being innovative? Can you invent an iPhone or almost anything you need today to live in the world?

The answer is no.

In fact, Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page have said they wished they could start their own school, because kids come out of school afraid to make mistakes and fail—and you can’t work for Google if you are afraid to make mistakes or fail!

You can’t be innovative if you’re afraid to fail. You certainly can’t cure a disease. You can’t do anything truly breakthrough that hasn’t been done before without failing.

If your children believe that making mistakes and failing are bad, they’ll forever feel stifled—creatively and purposefully.

The Modern Approach To Parenting That Prepares Your Child For Life

It’s so important that we allow our children to fail and that we teach them that failures are learning opportunities.

When my daughter Blake was little, I didn’t want her to have the belief that mistakes and failures were bad, so every time she made a mistake or failed, I would say, “Ding! Ding! Ding! Learning opportunity!”

One day when she was 9 years old, she looked at me and said, “It’s getting old mom, I got it.”

I know I had over done it, but I made my point. Neither of my kids feels that making mistakes or failing is bad.

And because of that, they are willing to go for it—they are willing to try things. When my daughter Britney did a half ironman, she didn’t know if she was going to finish. She said, “I am going to get out there, and I’m going to go for it.”

That’s what life is about. You know it’s about the journey, not the destination.

Teaching Your Kids To Take Healthy Risks And Gain Big Rewards

Going back to the scenario I described in the beginning, imagine now instead that mom comes over to you and says:

“You spilled the milk, that’s okay. You know, honey, you have little tiny hands, so I want you to take your little tiny hands and hold the container on both sides and very slowly tip it over.”

Can you see how the scene has shifted from a perceived failure to a learning opportunity?

Can you see how, as a child, you’d feel that what just happened was perfectly normal, and so you are, too?

I want to help teach your kids that there are no such things as mistakes and failures, they are only outcomes. If you don’t like the outcome, you can try something different.

So many times, parents are so busy that they miss little moments—such as the spilled milk—to make massive positive impact on their children. And because of this, they end up NEGATIVELY impacting children for life.

In my audio program Parenting That Empowers, I’ll give you many more examples, role-playing, and tools that will help you turn everyday parenting moments into opportunities to teach your child creativity and resourcefulness while building self-esteem and self-worth:

Creative Kids = Innovative Adults

Here’s a clue to my tools: if they’re not fun, they often won’t work. That’s why I’ll teach you my favorite games for playing with your kids that will get them thinking outside the box about their “mistakes,” which will then lead to them become self-starters and problem solvers.

You’ll also learn how to nip negative beliefs in the bud, such as if your child comes home from school with a bad grade and concludes they’re stupid or not good at the subject. Just a few choice words from you will reorient your child’s thinking and get them to naturally strive for their best.

Raising Kids Who Go For It

Bonus: when your child feels that mistakes are no big deal, he’ll also conclude that you love him—no matter what. And feeling loved just as we are is one of the most positive, powerful beliefs you can gift your child.


Shelly Lefkoe

P.S. “If I make a mistake or fail, I’ll be rejected.”

In Parenting That Empowers, you’ll learn how this belief gets formed and can create problems for your child later in life—and I’ll teach you how to keep your child from developing this painful result.

Raising Them To Feel Capable

Parent Without Yelling, Power Struggles and Guilt

  • Critical skills to raise happy, healthy kids
  • Make parenting the most fun you’ve ever had
  • Ensure your kids feel loved, accepted and understood
  • Co-parenting secrets to help your kids thrive
  • Common parenting mistakes you must avoid
  • Less tantrums and tears, more snuggles and laughter

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