I can’t do it! I’m too little! There is no way that was my fault!!
Do these statements all sound familiar?
These are fixed mindset statements, the statements we can make when things don’t go to plan, mistakes are made and our emotions are at an all time high. Mistakes are how we learn and developing a growth mindset that views these mistakes as a way to learn and ok, is critical to future successes. Our performance-based culture is not helping our children to embrace the mistaking making process. Creating a home and school environment that supports and guides children to embrace the failures that they are trying to avoid is critical for resilience, emotional wellbeing and a key indicator for future learning.
Our brains are wired to focus on negative experiences. This negativity bias is an artefact of evolution. Whilst this may have served our forebears well in terms of survival .. flight, fight or freeze, it can hold us back. . This response is controlled by the part of the brain called the amygdala. The amygdala is responsible for being on the look-out for threats and it sees mistakes as threats. Interestingly we have 5 times more receptors dedicated to threat responses than we do to positive ones. It makes sense, when we are under threat we need to react faster than we do when something positive happens. Because of this we remember threats and mistakes far easier and it is harder to recall positives and even give out positives. It’s very natural to focus on mistakes and to try to correct them. It’s not our fault it’s the way our brains are wired. Any situation that provokes anxiety is stored away safely for future reference. Whilst it is harder for our brains to experience positive emotions, we can train our brains, so that it becomes cyclic and leaves us wanting more.
Here is the good news, people who think that they learn from their mistakes are more likely to bounce back better, or in fact bounce forward. Their brains produce a bigger second signal that says ‘I made a mistake, I should pay more attention’. People who believe that they learn from a mistake, do better after making that mistake, they bounced forward.
So how can we support a mistake making and accepting culture?
It’s about letting our kids know and see that we all make mistakes and that we learn from them.
Role model – admit to your mistakes, talk about your emotions when things go wrong and how you bounce forward. You can even ask your kids for help and advice!
Talk about what learning and success looks like – learning is not a straight line, it’s a squiggle of forward and backward movement. We were talking to Year 1’s about when they learnt to walk and they were surprised when they were reminded that they didn’t just jump out of their prams and stroll off down the road!
Love them – Remind your kids that you love them and value them. The mistake is a behaviour that you might not be enamoured with but your love is unconditional. When they knock over their 10th glass of milk, love may not be your first reaction but take a deep breath!!
Hold space – Give them space to experiment and try. We often feel the need to jump in, to fix things and talk our kids through everything. Give them time and space to experiment and to work through their emotions. By being close they feel safe but holding space eliminates the chit chat and the rush.
Incorporate adventure into your lives – Weekend adventuring creates opportunity to push our own boundaries and try new things. Heading out to Lesmurdie Falls to explore and bush walk can push us all out our comfort zone and support taking risks and bouncing forward.
With the school holiday upon us it is the perfect time to play games, embark on adventures and try new and challenging things that can lead to mistakes. Creating an environment that supports bouncing forward can start today and the benefits of a growth mindset will follow on into the new school term and beyond.