The tool of humility

When a child becomes the top performer on a test or hits the scoring run, they brag about it to their friends, wanting to shout it from the mountain tops. However, when a child makes a mistake, they internalize the shame and guilt felt about not succeeding. The heavy sense of guilt and self-blame that a child feels when they make a mistake can be life altering in the eyes of a child. Isn’t it time we let them learn that life is full of mistakes as well as getting everything right all the time?



A recent article in Psychological Science found that people who brag about themselves and their successes are more likely to damage their friends’ opinion of them. In other words, currently we are not teaching children how to develop the tool of humility. If it is time for children to realize and reflect on their own actions and limitations, then shouldn’t this be the tool we are using the most with our children? Yes, it is painful to hear their child did not get a sticker with their 100 on their weekly spelling test, but isn’t it more important for them to recognize they didn’t get the sticker because of what more they could have done. 

The picture above is my light box in the class of fidgets that sits on the table when they walk in the door. Make no mistake of it’s message and the psychology of it’s being. For one, it the first thing they see when they walk in the door, welcoming them to the room. The sign reminds them that the skill of accepting what they got wrong is just as strong of a skill is bragging about when they get it all right.  It is one that my fidgets know by heart (probably because I say it all the time), but my fidgets are less to panic over feeling less than others because these children accept others strengths and weaknesses as if they were their own.

In my class we have a daily  tradition of sharing everyone’s high and low. What they are happy about outside the classroom, and what they aren’t happy about. For my class of fidgets, it helps them get things off their chest and share with the other students. In my parenting sessions as a Positive Discipline Educator, this is also one of the skills we encourage others to strengthen because helping children accept mistakes is as great as celebrating their successes. The bigger part of this is the daily routine of reflecting on their own actions and how they feel about. By voicing their own reflections, children begin to self-actualize what their actions helped them feel about themselves. This can also be done around the dinner table, helping children realize the amount of power, big or too little, they are giving to their events.

Maybe if we can help children realize the why in how much power they are giving to the worth of their accomplishments and mistakes, we can help lessen or carry the load?