Parenting Coach

Practical ideas for social, emotional and behavioral challenges

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Turn mistakes into opportunities.

What you can do

Help your child develop resilience by showing her that she can extract useful information from botched attempts. When she makes a mistake or fails in an endeavor, talk about what happened. See if there’s a different way she could handle things the next time.

Emphasize that we all mess up sometimes. Point to examples from your own experience in which you struggled with failure but managed to find a useful takeaway. Help your child find something positive to take away from even a seemingly disastrous outcome.

What you can say

“Sofia, I’m so sorry you lost the entire essay you were composing on your computer. I know you worked really hard at organizing your thoughts and outlining the composition. It’s tough to lose so much work.”

“I remember when I spilled coffee on my laptop right before I had to give a presentation. It was so stressful! But because I didn’t have any notes to read, I ended up interacting more with the audience. I think everyone liked the presentation more than they would have if I hadn’t spilled my coffee!”

“Maybe your essay won’t be quite as hard to write the second time around because you’ve already been thinking about it so much. I hope so! Let’s also review the system you thought up about how to monitor your work and save it.”

“How did your poem go? ‘Write two paragraphs, then pause and save, so you won’t be mad if the computer fades.’ It really stinks losing your whole paper, but I bet that experience will help you remember to pause and save, right?”

“Once you’ve finished writing the essay, let’s talk about what you can say to your teacher to see if he has any ideas on how to help you monitor your work in class. He’ll be impressed with your self-advocacy skills!”

Why this will help

Children with learning and attention issues tend to dwell on the negative things that happen to them. But they often don’t examine these experiences in a way that helps them learn from them or bounce back from them.

Using a negative situation to develop a positive strategy will ease your child’s frustration and increase the likelihood that she’ll learn from the mistake. It can also help her see that failure can be used to improve problem-solving skills.

By helping your child focus on the good things—and view a perceived crisis as being temporary—you can help build self-esteem, which is an essential component of resilience. Learning from mistakes can also help her become a better self-advocate. Figuring out what she needs to succeed will make it easier for her to ask others for assistance.

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