“Surprise, bafflement, fascination, excitement, hilarity, delight: all these and more are part of the optimistic understanding of error. This model is harder to recognize around us, since it is forever being crowded out by the noisier notion that error is dangerous, demoralizing, and shameful.” Kathryn Schulz- Being Wrong Adventures in the Margins of Error
We can’t be truly creative if we’re afraid to make mistakes. Kathryn Schulz’s book reminds me of the importance of allowing our kids to make plenty of mistakes, and to approach problems expecting to be wrong several times before they find the expected (or maybe unexpected) answer.
When my own kids do math, they don’t want to show their work or, God forbid, have their mistakes on paper for all to see. A friend who teaches writing told me that kids today have a hard time being creative because they don’t know what they’re “supposed” to write. The amazing journey of learning, full of missteps and wandering off the path, seems to be disappearing in light of constant testing and competition in schools. It’s not the teachers who are to blame, but the system, lack of funding, and maybe even the parents who hunger for good test scores and admission to prestigious colleges.
Doing science, art, writing and music at home is a great way to teach your kids how much fun mistakes can be. Tell them that many great scientific discoveries have been made because of goof-ups in the laboratory. Remind them that paintings and stories often end up better when they take a different direction than the intended one. Perfect is boring.
Have them sit down at the piano and make up a song, rather than just playing their lesson. If they’re crying about a drawing they don’t like, encourage them to turn the scribbled spot into a tornado. Let them do a science experiment- and stay out of it. As long as they’re not doing anything dangerous, let them improvise.
As parents, we should admit our own mistakes, laugh at them, and point out the ones that turn out not to be so bad after all. Teaching our kids to have a sense of humor about themselves is one of the greatest gifts we can give them.
Mistakes can lead to great things. There has never been anyone truly amazing who was afraid to make a few along the way.
Don’t be a “Tiger Mom” be a Tigger Mom!