June 19, 2019
When your little one turns to you for help bolstering a particular skill (be it writing, math, art, etc.), your instinct as a parent is likely to make sure you show them the "right way" to do whatever it is they're working on. But there's merit to messing up, too, as a dad on Reddit pointed out in a post written on Tuesday, June 18 that has managed to wrack up over a thousand comments in less than 24 hours.
Writing in the Parenting subreddit under the handle mjolnir76, the dad wrote, "One of my 5-year-old daughters is a bit of a perfectionist. She often gets frustrated when her drawings aren't 'perfect.' Despite my wife and I not comparing them to each other (they're identical twins), praising effort over final product, and a classroom mantra of, 'mistakes are proof that you're trying,' nothing seems to stop these bouts of self-criticism, particularly with her writing and drawing."
He went on to share that his daughter was making "tickets" for a play she was planning to put on with her sister. "She asked what theater tickets look like," the Redditor wrote. "I explained and showed her some examples. She kept getting frustrated that she couldn't fit the word TICKET evenly on the small piece of paper she had cut out. After her third exasperated sigh, I asked what was wrong and she showed me her TICKet, with the tiny 'et' squeezed in like an afterthought. I remember making many a painted sign in high school with the last two letters squished in; I'm sure we've all experienced this."
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The dad asked if he could show his daughter a couple of ways that he centers words when he's working on a similar project. "I started by counting the letters and making that many equal dashed lines, but I made them too big so had to erase and make them a little smaller," he wrote. "Then, I showed how you can count the letters and mark the middle of the paper and write the word from the inside out, using the center point as a reference. In demonstrating that technique, I accidentally wrote the K in the C spot, which she immediately spotted. I just said, 'Oh, you're right. I made another mistake. Thanks for catching it.' To which she replied, 'You're welcome. Remember, mistakes are proof you're trying.'"
He shared that his daughter "made just as many mistakes with this new technique as she did before, but having seen me make mistakes with it, she didn't beat herself up over it at all this time around."
mjolnir76 concluded, "When our kids ask us to do things, we can usually do them 'perfectly' the first time because we've been practicing those things for years. Sometimes it's good for them to see us make mistakes, especially if they are kids who tend to be perfectionists."
Commenters agreed with the proud dad's point and shared similar stories. One Redditor named Sanguinius666264 wrote, "My daughter loves watching me play Magic the Gathering online. I do ok, win some games, lose some games. She often asks me, 'Daddy, are you winning?' and I tell her 'I think I might lose this one.' She was confused at first as to why I'd tell her that, but I explain that it's ok to lose games that's part of what makes it fun, being a challenge. Now, she tells me, 'It's ok, you can win another one!' Once she told me to 'believe in myself,' which I loved!"
To that, the original poster (OP) replied: "I love it when they are spontaneously encouraging! One was climbing up to the top of the monkey bars by squeezing through the rungs and the other just keep saying, 'Good! Good! Good!' until her sister made it. Then, they both cheered."
Quite a few parents admitted that they're perfectionists themselves and believe their kid gets it from them, so they're working on it. A_canteloupe1 wrote, "This is great advice. I'm a perfectionist and one of my children seems to have inherited this trait, as well. There are so many instances throughout my life where I've been paralyzed by this perfectionism resulting in extreme procrastination or just giving up all together. I desperately want to help my son overcome his perfectionism and not continue building in that direction. This is a great reminder to be less hard on myself when I make mistakes to model the correct behavior for him."
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Plasticinaymanjar shared a similar experience, in which she's struggling, as well: "I got my perfectionist 5 year-old to start drawing by doing many mistakes on purpose... He laughed at my crooked stick figures at first, but then he started trying, and as he improved, so did I... It was actually difficult for me, as I am a perfectionist as well... If something doesn't work out in the first try, I get anxious and frustrated and never try again. So when I say, 'Your dad is super good at drawing because he's practiced a lot, we're learning so we need to practice, and it doesn't really matter is we get something wrong, we'll get better,' I am saying it half for him, and half for me."
Hilarymeggin shared an experience from her own childhood that proves the significance of the OP's point: "So once when I was seven, I was skiing with my dad, and took a nasty fall on the bunny slope. My little plastic ski broke in half, and knocked out one of my baby teeth. My dad packed it with snow and everything, but he said I was still so mad at myself, and embarrassed, I couldn't shake off the stormy mood. So he had the idea to have a huge fall himself, and he went down like the abominable snowman, limbs flailing, rolling in a huge cloud of snow. He said I laughed and laughed and laughed, and felt better in minutes. I used to hate messing up in front of my dad, because he seemed so good at everything!"
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The tip resonated with parents of younger kids, too. Rubyredrising commended the OP, writing, "My boy is only 2 and he already gets really frustrated when he can't get something right. Currently with his age, I'm teaching him it's better to ask for help than scream or get upset. Then, we do it together. Man, he's a quick learner! As he gets older, this is definitely the perspective I am going to take with him too. Great moment for a learning opportunity capitalized on by dad!"
Props to this dad for pointing out an issue that so clearly resonates with many moms and dads. Goes to show that sometimes the parent-child relationship illuminates lessons to be learned by parents just as much as their kids.