When You Mess Up . . .

. . . You Gotta Fess Up! So goes the saying that we use at school to try to get our sprouts to tell the truth when they make a mistake. And yet, we often hear flashbacks to that scene in the Polar Express where the little boy adamantly repeats his claim, "I didn't do it!"  So today I'm thinking about how important it is to teach our future leaders to come clean when you make a mess.

I'm reminded of the time that our Joshua took markers to the couch. In an attempt to keep my composure and not react with an irrationally angry response, I decided to try the four questions with him.

Me:  Joshua, what are you doing?
Joshua:  Coloring.
Me:  What are you supposed to be doing?  
Joshua:  Coloring?
Me:  Were you doing that?
Joshua:  Yep.
Me:  What are you going to do about it?
Joshua:  Color some more?

OK, so clearly the questions weren't scripted for toddlers. It was hard not to fuss at him, but at least he wasn't running and hiding; he was coming clean. In fact, he looks kind of proud of his masterpiece, doesn't he? That's what we want, right? (I will concede that we're not altogether certain that he was old enough to understand that we don't color on couches) So we promptly got our camera, snapped this AdOrAbLe shot, took the markers from his hands - did I mention that they were NOT the washable kind? - and attempted to fix the mistake. Ultimately, we ended up with new couches.  

How do you deal with mistakes? I found this this amazing post about when children make mistakes over at The Idea Room if you want to read their thoughts. In my nineteen years of parenting experience and twenty-six years in education, I've learned that the most important thing we must remember is that our sponges are soaking up life lessons with our every response and reaction, so if we shout and scream at them for messing up, guess what they learn?  Instead, why not turn those tense times into teachable moments. Get creative and have fun with it. Apply natural and logical consequences when you can. Let your charges know that mistakes are opportunities for growth and then show them you mean it by creating an environment in which they feel safe enough to fess up when they mess up!


  1. I love this. It's all so true. Love and Logic says that a dose of empathy is so important and that then let the consequences do the teaching. Thank you for great posts!


  2. He does look very empowered in that picture, lol! What a cutie!!

    One of my little sweeties is having difficulty staying on task. Thanks for the reminder to keep myself focused on the bigger picture. :-)


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