Mistakes = Knowledge

What Can We do When We Make a Mistake

Maybe we have a belief that intelligent people don’t make mistakes and that our intelligence defines our worth.  So, if we or our children make mistakes, then we might feel like we are “not good enough” and don’t deserve someone’s attention, time or love.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.  If we didn’t make mistakes, we wouldn’t have the benefit of learning from our experiences.  If we aren’t learning, we can’t gain knowledge. Knowledge does not determine whether or not we are lovable.

Someone once said that “It is the fear of looking stupid, that keeps us from being awesome.” In other words, the fear of making a mistake paralyzes us.  If we don’t try, we miss the opportunity for learning from our mistakes.


So the question becomes, how can we and our children become more knowledgeable unless we make mistakes and are allowed to experience the consequences?  The consequence will do the teaching as long as it comes after empathy and is either; natural (a result of the mistake), logical (created by a loving authority figure) or self-imposed.  For example, a natural consequence for a child that forgets their lunch money, would feel hungry at lunch time.  A logical consequence for a child that forgot to call their parents when they were going to be late, could be staying home the next time they want to go somewhere without their parents.


A self-imposed consequence for our reactive behavior could be apologizing for our over-reacting, by simply saying: “I’m sorry.” A more effective apology could have the following elements:  Responsibility, Recommittal and Restitution.  It would sound something like this:


  1. I made a mistake and I want to apologize for _____________.
  2. Our relationship is important to me.
  3. Is there anything I can do to make it up to you?


In this process, it is important to not make excuses, blame or use “but” statements.  Communication is 93 % body language, tone and facial expressions, therefore it is important to be sincere when delivering an apology.  If you are not willing to do what is suggested in step #3, you can ask for another option.  Try to come to an appropriate way to make amends.