Learning from Our Mistakes

Some time back I lost the iPad. Yes. Me. Not the boys.

Every time I think about it, I run over the events in my head wondering how I should have done things differently. Now that I have completed the 5 stages of grief and accepted that the iPad is gone, I have been reviewing the lessons that should be learned from it.

When I first broke the new to DH, I told him that no matter how annoyed or upset he might be feeling, I assured him that I felt ten times worse so please don’t nag me about it. Because I did feel bad. I’ve been kicking myself senseless over my carelessness despite the fact that it doesn’t change a thing. Now, in retrospect, I keep thinking that if it had been one of the boys who had lost it, I am certain I would have gone berserk – not that my reaction would have changed anything other than to make the boys feel even worse than they already did.

I am a great believer that things happen for a reason. To find the silver lining in this cloud, I have been wondering about the positives that can be derived from this experience. Part of that involved thinking about the post-reaction to this loss. This post-reaction is based on the idea is that if we punish the person hard enough, they’ll learn to be more careful in future because of the pain of it. Unfortunately, the problem is not that we don’t learn. We do. For a while, our guard is up and we’re extra careful. But life goes on and eventually we revert back to our usual state of caution – or lack of – and it happens again.

Case in point – a month after losing the iPad, I left a bag with the boys’ water bottles at a shop. This time I was luckier because they were still there when I went back for it. Either that or nobody wants used water bottles. The short of the long – I still forgot. If I were a child, you could say that I didn’t learn from my mistake.

The real lesson to be learned

It is easy to get really upset and angry over the mistakes that our children make. We think that by making a big issue out of it we can correct the behaviour and change the child. Somehow, if we punish the child severely enough, he will wake up one day and become a more careful person. Well, I’m here to say that that doesn’t happen. I was the careless child who was always losing my things and I know it drove my mother batty. Years later, I’m still the careless person losing my things. It doesn’t mean I don’t value my stuff because I do. Who wouldn’t feel the pain of losing an iPad?

As mad as we feel when our children lose their belongings, I think our children are also sensitive enough to feel the pain of the loss. Well, with perspective, of course. I’m sure they wouldn’t be quite as upset losing an eraser as they would if they lost a favourite toy.

It is pointless to get mad because it doesn’t change anything. All it does is hurt your relationship with your child.

Oroton ToteWhat’s a better way to handle it?

Instead of getting angry or punishing your child, I think a more constructive approach would be to help your child devise a plan to help them avoid a re-occurrence in future.

Using my case with the iPad as an example – my SIL made an excellent point when she suggested that I carry a larger handbag that could hold the iPad instead of carrying a separate bag. The idea behind this is that you need to keep to your routine. If you always carry a handbag, you aren’t likely to forget the handbag because it’s almost an unconscious part of you. If you got up without the handbag, your subconscious immediately notices that something feels different and that would be enough for you to take stock and realise that your handbag is still on the chair. The extra bag, on the other hand, may or may not always be part of the routine so it is more easily forgotten. If you must carry an additional bag, make sure it doesn’t contain your important stuff.

Learning from our mistakes

Children will make mistakes. But even as adults so do we. No matter what we do, our children will continue to make mistakes all the way through their lives.

The lesson to be learned isn’t how not to make mistakes but how to learn from them and devise ways around our stumbling blocks. If we can teach that to our children, then this was a mistake worth making.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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