Nowadays, we live in a society that denies mistakes: mistakes are often seen asunacceptable. Children are often raised from a very early age with the belief that making a mistake is abnormal or even immoral. The past, and therefore the mistakes we make, cannot be changed. The only thing we can do about the past, whether it is good or bad, is to learn from it and bring our attention back to the present. Changing the future is not a matter of the future but of the present moment.
Mistake as a guide
If we think of the mistakes that have happened and weconstantly remind children about them , it is very difficult for children to concentrate on the present. Petr Čech, one of the best football goalkeepers in the world, says, “Whatever the score, it’s still zero in my head.” This means that regardless of the result of the activity, you must learn from it and immediately return to the status of “here and now “.
A mistake is a guide to how to do something differently and better next time. The greatest thinkers and inventors of human history have made errors many times, Thomas Alva Edison’s lightbulb was not invented in the first attempt. By concentrating on mistakes, we are too focused on our weaknesses. The traditional model says: “Remove the weaknesses and preserve what you are good at,” which unfortunately is not possible.
If one works only on their weaknesses, they will start to forget what they are good at. Synapses of the brain (the connection between the neurons), which represent talents, will eventually begin to fade and these neural connections will begin to gradually disintegrate. If Jaromir Jagr learned hockey up to a certain level and then did not play for two years, it would immediately be obvious from his performance. And that’s the way it works with any activity.
So, we can make up for our weaknesses by learning about them to a certain level, or we can let other people, for whom they are strengths, to handle them. It is important to deal disproportionately with what we are good at. To do what we are good at means that we will, of course, make much less mistakes.
From childhood, the world teaches us that mistakes are unacceptable. When a child comes to school, his rating drops. Grading is a 17th-century retreat from when the school system began to develop, and people thought that it was necessary to divide children into certain compartments. However, a mark does not tell the child anything, from the point of view of feedback, a verbal evaluation is much better. Through that the child learns what has been done well and, if not, what to do differently, so that the child can be encouraged. Although this type of feedback is allowed in the Czech Republic, only a few schools use it.
Types of parents and their feedback
That’s why we try to actively discuss our acquired knowledge about feedback with the parents in our courses and workshops. Based on parents’ approaches to children as part of the evaluation, we have created a classification. The first of these types is the parent “dictator”, a parent who constantly determines a child’s rules and boundaries – how to behave, what he or she did wrong, and so on. However, the restrictions the “dictator” creates are unilateral. The parent does not listen to the child, he or she is not interested in knowing how the child responds to the restrictions. Rules and boundaries are, of course, necessary both in education and communication with the child. But it is good for the parent to know how the child deals with them.
The second type of parent is the so-called “passive parent”. This is a parent who, alternatively, does not give the child any rules or limits, and does not listen to him. He is also far from the ideal parent.
The third type represents the “a shoulder to cry on” parent. His approach also lacks the limits and rules, but unlike the previous two types, he tries to listen and take an interest in the child. Although this is one of the better approaches, however the absence of rules takes away from its success because every child needs some boundaries.
An ideal parental approach is a combination of both, the so-called “buddy” parent. Not only does he clearly define the boundaries and rules of the game, but he also monitors how the child reacts to them. The buddy can listen to the child and try to co-create the rules with him so that they are both satisfied. For this to work, it is necessary to have some trust and patience, then it can work together.
No need to worry if you sometimes see yourself as a parent “dictator”, “passive parent” or “a shoulder to cry on”. Being a “buddy” parent under all circumstances is not possible. It depends on the situation, the child’s age, but also on their developmental stage. For example, when it comes to puberty, then most of the rules does not work at all. Of course, it is possible to move in the individual quadrants of the approaches, but when reflecting on them, it is necessary to keep in mind the goal to get closest to the “buddy” parent approach.
It ofter happens that neither of the parents are in the same quadrant. One can be more “dictator” and the other one more “a shoulder to cry on”. However, this is just another form of functionality because they complement each other. The combination and interconnection of different approaches moves parents closer to the ideal.
One of a parent’s frequent mistakes is constant praise of the child. If parent consistently commend a child, the child begins to rely on it and at some point, he or she expects it for any activity. If the child does not get their praise, they may think they did it badly, which is not necessary..
Praising a child for a banal activity is not optimal. But if we want to support them in some way, we can also do this with an indirect question, for example: “Are you satisfied with your performance?”. So, we teach the child not only self-reflection, but also not to expect automatic praise.
The Sandwich Feedback
When giving feedback, most parents, coaches or teachers will typically first point out what the child did wrong. At that moment, their brain stops listening, and the amygdala (the emotional part of the brain) screams in the head, “I’m useless, I’ll never do anything right”. Even if a child is subsequently praised, his brain does not hear it anymore. There is another way to give feedback. The golden mean is sandwich feedback, which divides it into three phases.
At the beginning of the assessment, the child should be praised, no matter how they did. That will lead to serotonin exclusion, a chemical of happiness, which is formed for example, when someone praises us, and the child is much better prepared for the corrective feedback that comes in the second phase.
In the corrective feedback, however, one rule must be respected – to separate child from the activity. “You’ll never learn,” or “you’re not capable” will cause the child to take it personally, amygdala will take over and convince the child that they are incapable and cannot do anything well. If we change the assessment and say that the numerical example must be counted in another way, the emotional part of the brain does not take it personally and the person is open to feedback.
The essence of the third phase is the expression of support and trust for the child in the future. At that point, oxytocin, a hormone of trust or love, is formed, and if we touch or hug the child, it will support the process.
So, what does the result look like? Whatever the result of the activity is, the child knows what was done well and what to do differently. They create an emotional bond to the activity, and they are inspired for further work. Fear also goes away because the child realizes that even if he or she does it wrong the next time; the child will get support from his parents.
Sandwich feedback works just as well with adults. If we begin with a negative assessment, we are awakening the amygdala that creates negative beliefs which lead to emotional abduction. That is the situation when we are doing something right, but someone will negatively comment it – suddenly everything goes downhill.
The last mistake to be made is to pity the child’s misconduct. The amygdala will appear again, and the child will believe that he or she is stupid and will get stuck. Guilt and self-pity are very insidious feelings; on the contrary, sympathy or expressing understanding for the child can support them in their determination.
What does it all mean? A mistake is a result like any other. Feedback is the breakfast of champions – no matter what the results are, we need to learn how to get feedback very quickly, so we know how we are doing. It is not good to just praise or punish in the long run, but to provide interlaced feedback that reflects the result in a proper way. Finally, instead of pity, it is good for to express not only understanding for the child but also trust in their future.
Every child is a genius, discover their hidden talents
Do you want help your children to discover their talents and prepare them for future life? As part of the Unlock Children’s/Student’s potential, with the latest knowledge of positive psychology parents learn how to effectively lead children so that they can not only be successful but also happy in their lives. The new Unlock Children’s Potential (Albatros 2018) book from Jan Mühlfeit and Kateřina Novotná, which became a bestseller after a few months, is also based on successful courses for children, students and parents.
Due to the high interest in these workshops, an online course for parents, teachers or trainers who are actively working with children (odemykanidetskehopotencialu.cz) is now available.
Read more about all our projects at janmuhlfeit.com.