Parenting reminds me of a joke: at school the difficulty of a math questions is 1 + 2 =?, at home it somehow becomes x + y = ? and at a school test it moves on to “If Earth is 25,000 miles in circumference, how much fuel does a rocket need to land on the Moon?”. Sometimes the asks we are facing as new parents are unrelated to our previous experience and it feels like we take about 100 new decisions a day. The sheer number means we are bound to get some things wrong and that’s ok. It’s quite important to practice self-forgiveness and learn from these experiences and do better next time… because there will be a next time. If instead, we focus only on the fact that we got something wrong and in the past “I was never wrong”, it can lead to fear of trying new things and taking decisions. This in turn will make for a very narrow way of parenting to avoid that dreaded feeling of “being wrong” or “getting things wrong”. In fact there is no wrong, as a new parent it may feel like you get things “wrong”, but as long as the baby is physically safe, what you are doing is learning through trial and error and you are teaching your baby to do the same.
Brené Brown says “There is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period.” The road to achieving anything is narrow, winding and filled with dead ends. But with every bent you learn and in time you recognise ahead the bents that lead to your destination and those that don’t. It took Tomas Edison 1,000 attempts to invent the light bulb. When asked by a journalist, "How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?" he replied, "I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps."
And here is an important key to be successful in life. There is no such thing as failure, every time we try something we learn what worked or didn’t work and what we need to adjust when we try again. As Edison said a step in achieving your goal. A child learning and developing is synonymous with play and being creative. Give them a pot and a spoon and they’ll show you all the ways in which it can be used, not only to as tools to cook with. It’s not a failure to use the pot and spoon for something else other than their intended use, so why would any other attempt to achieve a goal be a failure?
Not achieving your goal on the first try does come with some emotions and depending on how emotionally stretched you are used to felling, it can be an uncomfortable place to be. By emotionally stretched I mean being comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. When you fail or are wrong how do you handle it? How would you teach your children to handle it?
To help you discover how you would handle it answer these reflective questions. They will help you know yourself better and in turn help your children deal with such experiences. If you need to, think of a time you felt you failed or got something wrong.
How does failure feel for you?
What is the inner talk/dialogue that you hear?
What do you do after such an experience?
- Get angry
- Get small and want to hide in a closet
- Want to hurt the one / thing that hurt you
- Re-run the scenario in your mind a million times reliving the experience
- Anything else?
With the same “failure” event in mind answer this reflection?
- What was good about the experience? (yes there is something good in that experience)
- What was bad?
- What would you do differently next time?
How helpful was it to put things into perspective and reflect?
And now that you’ve reflected it’s time to let it go and move on. What actions would be healthy for you to help you move on?
- Watch a soul uplifting movie or talk.
- Dance like no one’s watching
- Send Reiki/ positive energy to that person or situation
- Do something for someone else
- All of the above
What actions would you add to this list that would be helpful to uplift your soul.
Note: there are 2 main types of moving on actions:
- those that make us feel good but don’t add too much value (sink into a sofa and eat a tub of ice cream)
- those that feel good and add value to you and your soul (watch Unbroken – an inspirational film about the amazing results of resilience).
How would you adjust or apply the above to your children’s “failures”?
The point of this exercise is to define what “failure” or “getting things wrong” feels and how it talks to you, get perspective so you can do better next time. Often when we get perspective we find that things aren’t as bad as our mind is making it. It is like traveling on a narrow winding road, you reach a dead end feel discouraged. You see a tall pole next to you and decide to climb up to get your bearings again. Reflecting is an amazing tool I recommend using it on any difficult (or easy) experience. And without it step 3, moving on, would not be achievable.
Life experiences are just that, experiences. It depends on you if you choose to see them as failures or steps to achieving your goals. Which choice would make you happier?
Additional recommended resources:
Brené Brown: The gifts of Imperfect Parenting available from Sounds True here (or find it on your preferred platform)
Find our latest parenting workshops here.