When I raised my children, I found that people rarely spoke about the particular parenting problem I seemed to have. No teachers praised, rather than complained about my children for their condition was quiet and contained. They were rule-bound. They were surprised by children who didn’t follow rules and fell apart if they erred.
I remember riding home from a restaurant with Ben who was eighteen months old. He cried when he spotted me scarfing a French fry. I couldn’t figure out why he was so upset. Finally he settled down enough to tell me he was afraid the police would stop us and “they’ll smell the French fry on your breath.” The week before, we’d been stopped by the police checking alcohol levels, and he’d generalized, deduced and imagined a law that was uber severe. He was that rule-conscious, that early!
Visiting Catie in the midst of toilet training, I understood anew the meaning of “having an accident” as she fell apart when she “had an accident” in her big girl pants.
How do you convey the concept of mistakes to children who hate and fear making them? With the help of Todd Parr! Parr is an author-illustrator who specializes in books that ground children in common sense. He lightens intense problems with humorous illustrations and simple, direct, calming words. Think of him as the Mr. Rogers of children’s books. In It’s Okay to Make Mistakes (Little Brown, ages 2-5) he sets the tone from the bright yellow cover with a boy who wears underwear on his head and the dog beside him has socks on his ears.
The author refers to himself as Todd and his book makes you think of him in this approachable, trustworthy was. He gives mistake examples that cover a huge range. For some he states the issue concisely and quickly gives practical solutions that combat any bad feelings. Spilled milk? “You can always clean it up.” or “You can ask for help when confused”
He provides rules of operation while reassuring children about both commonality and individuality of feelings. “It’s okay to change your mind,” he writes, “Everyone is ready at a different time.”
He suggests that mistakes lead to betterment, for example being clumsy night help you “invent a new move”, being quiet makes you a good listener, coloring outside the lines is good, and “uh-oh” moments are how you learn.
He ends with a last hurrah as if the child listener has been changed by his book, and, he’s probably right. “It’s okay to make mistakes sometimes. Everyone does-even grown-ups! That’s how we learn. The end Love, Todd”