I was upstairs folding laundry when I heard the distinctive crash of glass on the tile floor and a small voice from the kitchen exclaim, “Uh-oh!”
I dropped the laundry and rushed downstairs to find my 4 year old frozen amidst a puddle of milk and broken glass, a half empty milk carton still in her hand.
“I’m so sorry, Mommy,” she started to explain, fairly tripping over her words. “I wanted milk, you were busy, I thought I could do it myself, but I can’t and it broke, and … I’m sorry!” She ended with a wail, a tear slipping out of the corner of her eye.
In that moment I had a choice.
I could scold her and hurt her feelings. Make her more dependent on me in the future, scared to pour her own milk and repeat the accident.
Or I could applaud her for trying to be responsible, making the effort to get it for herself, and not bother Mommy. I looked up and happened to see the magnet on my refrigerator that read:
“A mistake is evidence that someone at least tried to accomplish something” (Unknown).
Thankful for that just-in-time reminder, I smiled at her. I picked her up out of the puddle and cleaned her up, assuring her that Mommy was proud of her for being such a big girl and getting her own milk. But for next time, let’s try to remember to use a plastic cup, and remember that Mommy is willing to help if the milk is too heavy to pour.
Then, we set to work to sop up the milk and sweep up the glass before enjoying a cup of milk and a snack together.
Practicing to be Adults
How do you respond when your children make messes and mistakes? Are you quick to see the mess? Or the intention of helpfulness or responsibility behind it?
My Dad used to say: Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly, until you can do it well” (Jonathan Chapman).
Our children are practicing to be adults. When we choose to praise their efforts, even when misguided, pre-mature, or unsuccessful, we are teaching them that it is ok to make mistakes. If something is worth doing, it is worth the effort and practice.
When we cheerfully help them right the mistake and move on, we are showing them how to deal with disappointments and practice attempts at things in their life.
What is a broken cup and a little spilled milk compared to a child who learns that trying is good. We may not do it right the first time, but we can practice until we can.
Mistakes are not the end of the world. We can clean up and try again. We can ask for help when the task at hand is too much for us.
If they learn these lessons as children in your home, they will have a greater impact on the world around them as they live out these truths in their adult lives.
This post is an excerpt from “In Spite of Myself: How Intentional Praise Can Transform Your Heart and Home” by Katie Hornor, used by permission.
Bio: Katie Hornor writes at ParadisePraise.com. Her new book In Spite of Myself: How Intentional Praise Can Transform Your Heart and Home just released and stems from the lessons she’s learned in choosing to praise, intentionally, as a wife, expat, homeschool parent and business owner.