One of my favourite parenting stories is about a famous research scientist who made several important medical breakthroughs. He was asked by a journalist why he was so successful and he told the story of a very early lesson he learnt from his Mum when he dropped a carton of milk in the kitchen.
Instead of shouting at him she said, “What a wonderful mess you’ve made - what a huge great big puddle! I bet you’d love to play in that great big white milky puddle. Go on then - have some fun before we clean it all up!”
After about 10 minutes his Mum came back and continued,” Well, you’ve had your fun so it’s time to clear it all up. So, how would you like to do it- with a towel, a mop or a sponge?”
They both spent some time on the clean up operation and then his Mum did a remarkable thing in my opinion that changed the little boy’s destiny. She said, “Let’s go out in the garden and fill up the carton a few times so you can practise carrying it properly.”
The famous scientist remarked to the journalist that he knew right then and there, that it was OK to make mistakes and he didn’t have to be afraid of failing. He learned that his mistakes were just opportunities for learning something new.
What an amazing story and a remarkable Mum - transforming her perception of an accident and a mistake into a lifelong learning lesson.
Successful parents realise that making mistakes and getting things wrong is a really natural and important part in learning to be a great parent.
They know that minor failures and set backs are just the way we all learn - by trial and error. I call it “failing forward” because being willing to learn from your mistakes and blips helps you to get brilliant feedback to help you correct and fine tune your parenting so you constantly keep moving forward.
Every experience will teach you something if you are open minded and willing to let it.
One of the secrets to successful parenting is to keep a positive focus no matter what’s going on around you. Stay focused on your past successes rather than on your past mistakes or failures. Keep your eye firmly on the prize which is to bring up happy, confident well balanced adults - today’s children but tomorrow’s future.
Keep focused on the long term relationships you want to build with your children as this keeps you out of the untidy bedroom, undone homework scenarios that most parents get stuck in! It stops you sweating the small stuff and gives you a wider and bigger perspective.
One of the things I encourage parents to do when they work with me is to set aside 15 minutes at the end of each day to write down in their Positive Parent Journal all the things that went well that day no matter how small. It’s a time to pat yourself on the back and to acknowledge your successes. It builds your confidence and you fall asleep in a really positive frame of mind which helps you to wake up positively to begin a new day.
We are all really good at beating ourselves up as parents but we also need to recognise what we get right too!
During the night your unconscious replays and processes what’s gone on through your day and remembers six times more strongly the last things you’ve seen or heard or read before you fall asleep - so why not make your last thoughts positive and uplifting ? It’s also why reading bedtime stories to your children is so important to them. It helps them feel safe and relaxed.
So to begin failing forward:
• Stop waiting for perfection
• For permission
• For reassurance
• For someone else to change
• For your kids to mature
• For someone else to give you all the answers
• For someone else to give you a clear set of instructions
The secret is to relax, fail forward and learn from your mistakes - every experience will teach you something new and as my 13-year-old daughter loves to point out, I’m still just a work in progress !