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Mistakes are an event NOT an identity

Treasure Jars

part two

Shame or Regret

I am doing a series at the moment called Fill the treasure jar.

Imagine Children have two little jars in their hearts. One stores up treasures, the other stores up the little knocks and bruises that life dishes out like a harsh word or a disappointment.

As long as the treasure jar is full, they can sustain the blows of life more easily. The treasure jar is full of positive experiences that prevent those little set backs from knocking their self esteem and interfering with their true sense of self.

Last week we looked at filling their treasure jar with words of affirmation: To quote Rob Parsons, "catch them doing something good." For example,

Let them know you’ve noticed when they’re

kind, imaginative, tidy or thoughtful.

Avoiding shame

This week we’re going to look at how we correct our children. How we can fill their jar with messages that say

"You’re great! Even though you make mistakes sometimes," (as we all do).

I wish I’d known what I’m about to share before my babies grew in to toddlers. It’s our role as parents to correct our children - It’s a form of love. A world without boundaries would be a very difficult place to live. Even a football game without boundaries would be very hard to play fairly. So discipline is a good thing.

In any one day children might need correction. And as they get older their mistakes can be, not so much errors, as dare I say?.....misbehavior. That's a way of them feeling around for the boundaries, seeing if they’re still safely in place - and it’s not long before we catch them being -




Not listening


Grumbling about having to help.

Or maybe that’s just my kids!

And that’s where we, as parents, step in.

We can do this in any number of ways, but a trap that is easy to fall into, is to put the word ‘you’ in front of the correction:

You’re being messy

You’re so unkind

You don’t listen to me

You’re so slow

or labelling:

Don’t be silly

Don’t be a whinger

I’m not suggesting you say things like that. I am just saying it’s common and I know that I, and many others have happily said things like this from time to time..

Here’s the rub.

We can correct our children with SHAME or

We can correct our children with REGRET.

The above options all head for shame.

They all speak of who the child is.

You are: slow, silly….

Or they label the child.

You’re a whinger, You are unkind…

Regret is different. It labels the mistake, not the child and enables them to look forward to solutions, rather than idenitifying them as a foolish or bad person, which is where they can get stuck.

I see there's a bit of a mess there!

It hurts me when I hear Bobby spoken to like that.

I don’t feel I’ve got your attention.

I’m concerned we’ll be late.

I’m ready to listen when I'm spoken to kindly.

Regret looks at the problem, not at the child.

Regret speaks of what they did.

Not who they are

When we link behavior with who they are, we shame them and they begin to feel

There’s something wrong with me.

I’m a bad, naughty, clumsy, unkind or bossy person.

I’m not good enough

I’m not enough!

Whereas the reality is they’ve just made a poor choice (as we all do from time to time).

Their worth is not attached to their output

If we want our children to believe that even when they’re made a poor choice, snatched a toy, hidden their vegetales under their plate, pulled the dogs tail, spoken rudely to us or are deliberately doing the opposite of what they’ve been asked, they are still


They are enough. More than enough!

They have the same worth as they did before the made that choice.

Let them know that a mistake is an event, not an identity

If we avoid labelling and accusing, they will learn to:

Own their mistakes

Clean up their messes (proverbial and real)

Be tolerant of other people's mistakes

Not bank up shame

Be less likely to shame others

Not be afraid of failure

Fill the right jar

When we correct them, let’s not fill the jar with shame. Let’s correct them and still fill the treasure jar by letting them know that they are lovable and wonderful when they make good choices and they are lovable and wonderful when they make poor choices.

Have a lovely week,


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