The Problem with Being Perfect: How to Teach Children to Fail and Try Again

Did you know that fireworks, penicillin, chocolate chip cookies and microwave ovens were all invented by mistake when inventors were trying to create something else? They missed their vision and came out with something that changed the world.

Sometimes mistakes aren’t so glamorous; there doesn’t seem to be anything positive to show for the blunder. This happened to me last week. I attempted to make soup and forgot to add the coconut milk. The Sweet Potato and Kale Soup I aspired to create turned into the Chinese food that I ordered for dinner.

Many small beings are scared of making a mistake. Some are so scared that they won’t answer a question or attempt an activity unless they’re sure that they can do it right. This fear will stop these small beings from thriving in life. Making mistakes is part of what makes us human and is part of the joy we experience in life!

Here’s how to combat the fear of perfectionism that is holding your small being back:

  1. Talk to your small being about mistakes in a positive light. This includes mistakes that you’ve made and that they’ve made. Make sure to have a tone that communicates that mistakes are not a big deal and happen all the time. Don’t make negative comments when your small being makes a mistake and certainly don’t get mad at them for it.
  2. When your small being asks for help, only give it to them if they really need it. I often will tell a small being to try the task once on their own before I’ll help them. Always be happy to help when it's truly needed but do not provide assistance if you feel your small being is trying to get out of attempting something hard.
  3. Practice being wrong and making mistakes. Ask your small being questions you know they don’t know and ask them to make a guess. Give them tasks that are too hard and have them try before you’ll help them. I also like to play the “wrong answer game” with small beings that have a particularly hard time with perfectionism. All you have to do is to ask them a question and their job is to give you the wrong answer. Then they can ask you a question and you make up a wrong answer. Sometimes the answers elevate to being truly hilarious.
  4. Practice acts of compassion, both for yourself and the world. Perfectionism is the antithesis of compassion; if you're compassionate with yourself you can embrace yourself and your small being in a new way. This is excellent behavior modeling. Consider -- like myself and the B+B team -- hopping onto the Dalai Lama and Daniel Goleman's A Force for Good Campaign, a global movement for compassion and inner peace. Start by tagging a picture of a good deed on social media with #RealGood.

Have fun with mistakes. We don’t always show or point out our mistakes to our small beings, but the reality is that most small beings think we’re perfect and they want to be the same. (Tweet) Show them your mistakes and how they have helped you thrive. Perfectionism is a great goal but not one that can ever really be achieved!

Insight into Action!

What is the most recent mistake you’ve made? How did you learn from it?

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With a little help we can all grow. If a special person in your life can use this information, then please forward this blog.