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Why Children Need to Know It’s OK to Make Mistakes by
Dr. Justin Coulson

Help kids overcome perfectionism and rekindle their comfort with errors, through guidance and support.

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You won't find a child more chuffed with themselves than a pre-schooler who is learning to write their name. In the beginning, they courageously create a jumble of mixed-up letters and backward S's to piece together the first iteration of what will become their signature. Very quickly those mistakes lead to mastery, and they're equipped with a skill they'll use hundreds of thousands of times throughout their life.

Dr. Justin Coulson highlights as our children grow, their fearlessness in the face of mistakes often gives way to a paralysing fear of failure. They become less willing to take risks, try new things, and broaden their experience because of the risk of not getting it "right" straight away.

How do we help our kids overcome perfectionism, and make friends with mistakes again? Here are Dr. Coulson's top tips:

Talk it through – Whether it’s learning to ride a bike or writing a story, when your child shows reluctance to try before they start, ask them what they’re worried about. Give them the chance to share their fears and talk them through. Ask them, ‘What’s the worst thing that can happen?’ By putting words around their worst fear, it can help put it into context and minimise it so it seems smaller and easier to handle.

Share your story – Younger children love to hear stories from their parents and trusted adults. Share a story with them of when you were scared, then tried, failed, and learned something from making a mistake. You can make it funny to lighten the load and help diffuse their worry.

Resilience – Making mistakes and learning from them, helps children build resilience which will stand them in good stead later in life. If they have tried, failed, and then tried again, it helps them build confidence to tackle bigger, more daunting tasks down the track. Failure is not the enemy, it’s failure to try. Failure, ironically, can build success. As the saying goes, ‘If at first, you don’t succeed, then try and try again...’

Reward the effort – If you have coached and coaxed your child into trying something new for the first time, or if they have worked hard to conquer their fear, then regardless of the outcome, let them know they are champs for trying. This way, the reward is linked, not to whether they failed or succeeded, but to the effort they made in the first place. Being a ‘doer’ with a positive 'at least I tried’ attitude will help your child build a positive approach to tackling new activities and tasks later in life. 

Practice makes perfect – give your child plenty of opportunity to keep trying their chosen activity, whether they’ve taken up a new sport, musical instrument, or hobby, or whether they’re plucking up the courage to make new friends. Help them stay positive and celebrate their achievements and learnings with them along the way. Whether they tell you this or keep it to themselves, kids love it when their parents and carers are their support team (and they’ll remember it later too!) 

Erase Messy Mistakes with PILOT FriXion Erasable Pens and Markers

Erasable pens or markers such as PILOT's FriXion range, can be a handy tool to help kids develop confidence with handwriting. From gel ink pens, highlighters, and felt tip colour markers, FriXion features thermo-sensitive ink that vanishes without a trace when you erase it with the built-in eraser on the end of the pen. It’s a great way for kids to learn that practice makes perfect!

Dr. Justin Coulson is an Australian psychologist, parenting expert, and author known for his work in the field of positive psychology and parenting. He specialises in providing practical strategies and advice to parents and families to promote positive relationships, well-being, and resilience in children. Dr. Coulson runs a popular Instagram account @drjustincoulson and has a growing community of 42,400 followers.

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Pilot Pen Australia

Here at PILOT we believe in possibilities and expression for all who love to think, play and create. ​
For over 100 years we have been guided by our principles of innovating and creating beautiful writing instruments that simply provide a writing experience like no other, making the possibilities endless with PILOT in your hands.​

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