The Oops-Laughter-Learning Journey (BM Sep 29 2016)

When we were kids, a lot of us grew up in an environment where mistakes are frowned upon. Whether we accidentally spilled our juice or left something behind, you expect that look of disappointment or an adult’s shrill reprimanding. The point is, you were not careful and you put resources to waste.

When I was 6, we had a Sony TV in our room. After my homework, I would watch my “Batibot” (a local children’s show). That time the TV was unplugged. I took a breath, plugged it and the TV was broken. It was a 220v plug. The TV was 110. I told my parents. They said it needed to get brought to a repair shop, so there will be no TV in a few days. From then on, I always looked at the voltage of any appliance I plugged in.

When I was in college, I worked as a brand assistant part-time. I was handling this new brand. We had no budget. Home TV Shopping was new. I walked in the Benpres Building and presented to Ms. Rica Lopez. After a few meetings, it was a go. The sales did not meet expectations. My dad never said it was wrong to have tried. I was deeply grateful for that “non-reprimanding” moment.

These are just some examples of how I formed my view of mistakes. What I have learned is that when you view these “Oops” as negative, you want to get through them as quickly as possible. There are feelings of embarrassment, self-doubt and even escape. It took a long journey for me to change my view. Amidst the mistakes, especially at the hardest points, I remember telling myself that, one day you will laugh at this moment. Thankfully, it does happen. More than this, the fear of mistakes slowly fades.

Today, I try to impart this to my kids. I call it the “Oops-Laughter-Learning Journey”.

When my kids make mistakes, I tell them these will pass; you will laugh at them when you look back one day; and value the lesson and growth.

For me, it is that initial thud when your child makes a mistake that is most crucial. If the feeling is negative at the onset, then fear of mistakes develops. I choose to be “light” at the first thud and then explain substance and corrections later.

I remember in a trip to Hong Kong with my daughter, the safe in the hotel fascinated her. She put her precious pencil case inside. On our flight back, she started to cry right before take off. She forgot her pencil case. Right away, I said, no worries, there is a solution to everything. I called the hotel to find it and keep it first. A colleague in the office went the next month. I told Meagan to personally ask Charlotte a favor to get her pencil case for her. In that entire month, she worriedly asked me each week if someone was going to Hong Kong. During Charlotte’s trip, she asked everyday if Charlotte flew back already. Meagan got her pencil case back. She was very grateful both to Charlotte and to the experience. Today, this jolting incident becomes a funny story we often talk about in our travels.

I believe that mistakes are part of our kids’ future. I believe as much as Math and Reading needs practice, so is dealing with mistakes. I try to introduce play activities that foster this.

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Music, block play, cooking and art are some activities I see help strengthen my kids’ threshold for mistakes.

When they face challenging situations, how do kids deal with that fear at the pit of their stomach? Do they cry? Do they blame others? Do they run away? The truth is how we deal with mistakes greatly influences how our kids deal with mistakes. This is especially true in our “first reactions” because this sets the tone. Do we get furious at the onset? On the other hand, if mistakes are shoved aside, then kids absorb this tolerance to negative behavior.

For me, there is no one-way to deal with those “Oops” moments. The main principle I follow is – How do I make it a learning journey? Below are some points I consider –

  • Was it intentional? – If it were an accident, then I first say, “It’s okay. Things happen.” Then say, “Next time let’s be careful so we do not waste resources.”
  • Can this be an opportunity for “problem-solving”? – When we were in Ogawa, Marcus, at 6, spilled his Miso soup 3 times. Each time, I did not show frustration. After the third time, I asked him why he thought the soup spilled. We later concluded that the soup was placed at his right. Now, he is conscious to always put his bowl on his upper right hand side.
  • Is the mistake repetitive? – My daughter always forgets her things. Since these are school materials like a pen, I would easily replace it for her. Reminding her did not help. Recently, she forgot her new uniform during a play date. Her other 2 uniforms were a bit tight but still usable. I told her to look for it but I did not see the effort or concern for her mistake. Now, she has to make do with her tight uniforms.
  • How does my child process his “Oops” moments? – My kids were quite intense with mistakes. It is a continuing process of “breathing”, understanding and learning. I value the self-awareness I slowly see. More than this, I find joy when they actually start finding solutions on their own.



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