Mum's genius idea to help teach her children it's okay to make mistakes

Photos courtesy of Julie Mudrick.
Photos courtesy of Julie Mudrick. 

Three years ago, Julie Mudrick grew worried about her son Luke, who was in grade three at the time.

Julie noticed that if Luke made a mistake, he was really hard on himself. He also seemed afraid to have fun.

So one day, Julie, who lives in Virginia, decided to pick Luke up from the bus stop after school while wearing silly glasses.

Julie with her 13 year-old daughter Isabella, who sometimes likes to dress up with her mother.
Julie with her 13 year-old daughter Isabella, who sometimes likes to dress up with her mother. Photo: Photos courtesy of Julie Mudrick

Doing this was her way of showing Luke that it was okay to be different; that you don't have to take things so seriously.

Since then, Julie has worn different costumes to Luke's bus stop every day for the month of October.

The mother of five says she's noticed a change in her children's attitudes since starting the project. "They are willing to have fun. When they do fail at something they pick themselves back up," she told TODAY.

Clinical psychologist Kirstin Bouse, author of The Conscious Mother, says there's "nothing more powerful" than modelling your value system to your children through your actions.

"So I applaud this mother for her creativity, her boldness and her determination to help her children see the joy in being silly."

However, she says that in order for Julie to embed her values in her children, she needs to model her views consistently through her behaviour at other times, too.

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"There's no point dressing up in silly costumes for a month if at home, [Julie] berates herself, or others, for being imperfect or if she can't start something for fear of failing," says Bouse.

In order for Julie to truly help her children understand her message, Bouse says she should also ask them their thoughts on why she dresses up, and what they have learned from it. (Which, we assume, she's probably done.)

While Julie's actions are certainly unique, the idea behind them is universal.

Photos courtesy of Julie Mudrick
Photos courtesy of Julie Mudrick 

After all, as parents it's hard to watch your child berate themselves for making mistakes - yet many children do.

"There's a lot of pressure on children these days," says Bouse.

That pressure is especially felt in academic and sporting achievements. "So children feel they need to achieve in order to be accepted and acceptable."

Bouse reassures parents that there are ways we can help reduce that pressure.

Start by talking to your children about your own failures and what you learned from them. Tell them about times when you made a mistake -  explain how it made you feel, and how you learned to move on.

Then, focus on progress - both yours and your child's - rather than just the end result. Remind your child it's okay not to get things 'right' all the time, but that making an effort and improving are just as important.

It also helps to pay attention to the qualities your child possesses, such as how persistent they are, or how willing they are to take on a new challenge.

And, when your child makes a mistake (which she's bound to do), focus on the positives, including how she handles it. Bouse suggests saying things like, "It's so great to see you pick yourself up and keep going."

Lastly, focus on your child's personal attributes, rather than just her achievements.

For instance, tell her you love how kind and thoughtful she is. Pepper that with positive statements such as, "You'll make the world a better place".

While raiding your costume drawer is a bold way to show your child it's okay to be silly and there's no need to be 'perfect', Bouse reassures that surrounding your child with encouragement, love and support can be just as powerful.

Does your child worry about making mistakes? Have you tried any strategies that have helped?

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