When the top golfer in the world Rory McIlroy walked off the course in the middle of the Honda Classic not too long ago, he caused quite the kerfluffle. While he tried to excuse his surrender to the pain of a severe toothache, critics suspected he gave up due to his dismal early performance. In his Boston Globe column, “Etiquette at Work,” Peter Post makes the excellent point that McIlroy compounded the bad example of quitting mid-tournament by trying later to excuse it, rather than simply owning up to the unprofessional behavior (which, to his credit, McIlroy later did). Post suggests three steps for handling situations in which we have made a mistake, steps that can be invaluable advice to children as well, and to which I’ve added a some thoughts of my own:
1) Admit the mistake and apologize.
2) Take responsibility and try to address some kind of restitution, if possible.
3) Take a moment to consider what can be learned from the mistake.
4) Move on and commit to do better.
Reframing mistakes as opportunities from which to learn and grow can help kids – and adults – internalize the power of acceptance, resilience and fortitude. As James Joyce said, “Mistakes are the portals of discovery.”