June 17, 2022

How Celebrating Mistakes Can Help Develop a Growth Mindset in Children

happy children in chef hats having fun with flour in kitchen not afraid of mess

Mistakes are unavoidable, especially when learning. But celebrating mistakes can actually help your child develop a growth mindset, which will make them more likely to take risks and try new things in the future – both in school and out of it.

Here’s how to celebrate mistakes at home with your kids and set them up for success in life and learning.

Why we should celebrate the mistakes of children?

Because failure is inevitable. And celebrating mistakes can help build up your children’s resilience. A growth mindset essentially means believing that you have some control over your destiny and success comes from hard work, practice, and learning from failure.

The famous Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck notes that if students believe their talent and intelligence are fixed then they will give up quickly if they fail.

happy children in chef hats having fun with flour in kitchen not afraid of mess

What do mistakes teach children?

They teach children that no one is perfect, that they don’t have to be afraid of trying something new and different because it may not always work out. They learn how to take risks, practice skills, and most importantly try again if things don’t go as planned. Mistakes should be celebrated as an opportunity for learning, growth and development. We want our kids to grow up with a growth mindset; but how do we accomplish that?  Too often in the classroom, success is measured by grades and correct answers.

Teach young children early on about life being imperfect. Having high expectations for yourself helps lead to success, but having high expectations and wanting everything you do to be flawless will only lead to disappointment.

 

Cute child with glasses using a laptop

Start them off early by teaching them that no matter what level they play on in sports, there will be winning teams and losing teams – they shouldn’t get down on themselves if they lose a game and celebrate with joy when others succeed!

Use mistakes as conversation starters…not fillers! In other words, ask open-ended questions like: What can you do to make sure you don’t make that mistake again? (instead of: I know you feel bad about making that mistake; what do you plan to do differently next time?)

Leave room for them to answer. Talk about mistakes at home too. It isn’t just important for children to learn from their teachers – but also from their parents.

What is the growth mindset perspective on making mistakes?

When educators encourage their students to take risks and make mistakes, they are empowering them with what psychologist Carol Dweck calls a growth mindset. Instead of viewing errors as negatives, children with growth mindsets see mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow.

For example, let’s say you ask your child to write down some spelling words. They start out great and end up making a mistake on one word.

With a fixed mindset, they might view that error as evidence that they’re not smart; something we’ve all heard kids say: I’m stupid!

A growth mindset would lead them to respond by saying: Oh yeah! That was a tricky one. They would have no doubt that with time and practice—thanks to their persistent effort—they’ll get it right next time.

 

Loving mother and her baby painting easter eggs

Key Takeaways for Parents

Using a growth mindset as you teach your children is one of the best things you can do for them. If you set an example and show your kids that it’s normal to make mistakes, they will be more likely to try new things, learn from their mistakes, and keep trying until they succeed.

As an author, Dr. Carol Dweck wrote, instead of praising [children] for their intelligence or talent—valuable traits that tend to breed a fixed mindset—praise specific behavior: ‘You really worked hard on that.’ ‘I like how you never give up.’

Research has shown praise geared toward intelligence or ability doesn’t motivate students to perform better when they encounter challenges.

 

happy child with palms painted with colorful paint

What Teachers Can Do

If you want your students to develop that positive mindset, it’s important to start by celebrating mistakes. If a student gets something wrong, don’t focus on what they didn’t know—instead, try telling them about all of their potential for learning more.

This can be an effective way to foster healthy risk-taking without making students feel like failures. If your child struggles with math, talk about all of their options for helping them grow, instead of telling them they’re bad at it.

You might say something like: You seem frustrated that you didn’t get that problem right—maybe we should try working on some different strategies for solving it next time?

 

Child happily playing with paint using his feet

Why is failure important to a growth mindset?

It’s hard to see our mistakes as learning opportunities, but they are. At least, that’s what Carol Dweck, researcher and author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success has found.

Her research aims to make a growth mindset — defined as an individual’s belief that intelligence and talent are not fixed — more common in schools and homes.

Instead of teaching students what is wrong with their mistakes, Dweck wants teachers to focus on why those mistakes are important. M is for mistakes, says Dweck, to remind us that we learn from our mistakes.

With good days representing people with a fixed mindset (those who believe success depends entirely on innate ability) and bad days representing those with a growth mindset (those who believe success comes from effort), Dweck says it’s time for educators to support students in developing a growth mindset by celebrating even small steps forward: like noticing there was something wrong with their work before they turned it in or remembering how they solved similar problems last year.

 

Boy showing a brush in one hand and the other painted green while doing crafts at home

What does a person with a growth mindset believe about mistakes and feedback?

A person with a growth mindset believes that his or her mistakes are best teachers, and he or she is eager to learn from them. Growth-minded people don’t see their mistakes as symbols of stupidity; they know they can help them improve. When it comes to feedback, they know that not all criticism is helpful—but even if it isn’t helpful, there is still value in hearing what others have to say.

Unlike fixed-mindset people, growth-minded learners believe that effort (not talent) leads to mastery. They understand that smart and talented people sometimes fail because no one succeeds at everything.

But most importantly: People with a growth mindset believe in themselves. No matter how many times they fall down—or how big their mistake was—they always get back up again because they know it’s never too late to try something new and do better next time.

 

Three children paint with brushes and paints

How do you encourage mistakes?

In order to grow and develop, we need to make mistakes. We learn from our experiences and without making some mistakes along the way, we can’t truly appreciate what it means to be successful. With that being said, how do you encourage your students or children to celebrate their mistakes?

Do you tell them it’s okay when they make mistakes or are you more judgmental of their actions? Take some time today and think about what type of message you are sending with regard to failure. How can you change that message so that your students aren’t afraid to take chances?

As educators, we want our students to be confident in taking risks, we need them to fail so that they can succeed!

So how do we teach our students how to learn from their experiences without making excuses for their behaviors? In order for us as teachers, parents, and caregivers…the truth is: We need to celebrate mistakes. When it comes down to it, celebrating mistakes is really no different than telling your children not to worry if they don’t get something right away.

 

happy little boy showing his palms coated in colorful paint while lying on the floor

Teaching Students to Accept Mistakes

Mistakes are best teachers. They show us what doesn’t work, force us to reevaluate our assumptions, and allow us to start again with renewed vigor. Mistakes help us learn and grow.

When students are willing to make mistakes and accept them as learning opportunities, they take a crucial step toward developing grit and perseverance – two traits that will serve them well throughout their lives. Unfortunately, many of today’s schools discourage failure – even though it isn’t really failure at all!

 

Group learning with the teacher

How do you celebrate mistakes in the classroom?

As an educator, I understand that mistakes are best teachers. With that mindset, I often encourage my students to celebrate their mistakes because it helps them build resilience, learn from their mistakes and ultimately perform better.

If you want to develop learning behaviors in your children or students at home, embrace celebrating mistakes rather than punishing failure. Here’s how

1) Model mistake-making as an opportunity for improvement.
2) Praise effort and persistence when kids struggle with something that is hard for them to learn (even if they haven’t succeeded yet).
3) Bring attention to how resilient kids can be in learning from their mistakes and challenging themselves again even after repeated failures.
4) Let kids know that it is OK not to get things right away – sometimes it takes time and practice before we succeed.
5) Encourage your child to think of a different approach when they fail, rather than trying again with exactly what didn’t work before.
If you see your child making mistakes, don’t yell at them or make them feel bad about it.

 

Kids Having Fun with Paint

Conclusion

A positive mindset is all about accepting failure as just another step on our journey toward success. To teach students to adopt such a mindset, we must celebrate mistakes not only for what they do but for how they can help us grow as people and professionals. That’s why, embracing failure from a young age is key to fostering that all-important growth mindset, even if it doesn’t always seem like it.

Taryn Crimi

Taryn Crimi

Taryn is an international intuitive, focused on helping to empower you manifest your best life!

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