Growth Mindset Kids Learning Activity #3: Mistakes Are Proof of Learning


How many of you have stood by feeling helpless as your child struggled with mistakes? How many of you have experienced the heartache of watching your child blame him or herself for being “stupid” just because of a poor grade or failed project?

We all have. It is heart wrenching for us to see our children struggle with mistakes and failures. But mistakes and failures are part of learning. They are a way for us to experience “hands on” how things work, and don’t work.

Help your child make the most of mistakes and failures. Some experts think that we should delete the words “mistake” “fail” “goof up” from our child’s vocabulary. But if we do that, we are setting unrealistic expectations for our children. We all perform at different levels on different tasks, and at different times of the day, etc. Our BEST is not a static thing. It fluctuates, just like everything else in the world.

So, help your child realize that just because THIS effort on THIS project did not go as well as they wanted it to, it does not mean they are stupid, dumb, lazy, or any of those other things they end up calling themselves.

It means they are LEARNING. They are exercising that brain and being CREATIVE by turning the failure into a success.

Help them figure out a way to change up the project and try again.

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” – Alexander Graham Bell

Talk to them about Alexander Graham Bell. Help them understand that just because someone else does not value their ideas, it does not mean the ideas have no value. Maybe they are ahead of their time. Many inventors are.

We think of him as the inventor of the telephone; something that has changed our lives in tremendous ways. But, how many of us know that when he tried to sell the telephone patent to Western Union in the late-1800s, the company’s president laughed at the idea, and thought of the telephone as only a toy?

Despite his many invention successes, Bell encountered failure as well. Many of his inventions, while ahead of their time, were not as successful as the telephone. Here are a couple of Bell’s invention ideas that did not work out as intended:

Early Metal Detector

This “almost success” happened in 1881 after the assassination of then-President James A. Garfield. Bell, his assistant, Sumner Tainter, and mathematician Simon Newcomb developed a device that hummed when close to metal. During initial testing, the device succeeded and found bullets that the men placed under their clothing. However, while searching for the bullet in President Garfield’s body, the detector hummed continually.

Unfortunately, the bedsprings in President Garfield’s bed led to the continuous humming, and the invention was seemingly a complete failure. Nonetheless, Bell is credited with providing the framework for the modern metal detector.

Kite Flight

Later in life, Bell became interested in the study of flight. He supported aerospace engineering through the Aerial Experiment Association (AEA), and came up with concepts meant to progress the science of human flight. From 1907 through 1912 Bell experimented with tetrahedral wings, or box-kites. However, many of his concepts could not stay aloft for long periods of time, and the Wright brothers became the first inventors to perfect extended flight.

Recently Tomas Saraceno has begun to use Bell’s idea to create a box-kite design that may lead to the development of floating solar-powered energy production.

Sometimes, others can take our ideas and work with them to create more innovations. The lesson is: DON’T GIVE UP.