"Falling would have been better. I could have gotten up from a physical fall. But being told that failure must be avoided at all costs kept me from ever getting back up on those monkey bars again."
- from The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst
That's lesson number two I've learned about the value of letting kids have small failures early on. The first - from Love and Logic - is the actual learning curve of making a mistake and having to deal with the results. Let kids begin with "small" mistake and consequences before they become "big" mistakes and the consequences much more serious. Let them learn how to consider the consequences of making a particular decision. However, I don't know that I've ever read anything that addresses (in quite this way) the emotional aspect of not requiring perfection and "allowing" mistakes quite like the book I'm reading now.
Perhaps it struck a chord with me because I am a perfectionist to some degree. And sometimes it prevents me from doing what needs to be done, when all I really need to do is take action. Just start somewhere. But I want to start perfectly. Not go back and have to redo. When that might actually be faster than doing nothing at all. There's a huge cost in expecting this of myself - or of my children.
I'm so thankful I had the opportunity to remind my older child - earlier this afternoon, before I picked up this book and read this passage - that his worth is not in how well or quickly he can master a skill. I don't love him less because he's not a quick study on my old flute from middle school. He may never be able to play it perfectly, but I also reminded him that his scientific mind may allow him to understand how and why the flute works the way it does better than I probably ever will. He has worth to me because he is who he is, not for what he can do. And I can show him just how much by allowing him to make mistakes, and to do so without criticism, but with guidance and love and encouragement.
I can't tell you how much more lovely his music was to me - and how much more patience I had for being in that moment with him when he was frustrated - when I just let go of the desire for perfection. Yes, I wanted to be the "perfect" parent in that moment. I think I did an ok job.