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Positive Discipline Tool Card: Mistakes

Positive Discipline Teacher's Tool Cards by Jane Nelsen and Kelly Gfroerer and Positive Discipline Parenting Tool Cards by Jane Nelsen and Adrian Garsia, each offer 52 Positive Discipline tools that are available to help with many teaching and parenting challenges. Mistakes is the highlighted tool in this blog post.

After trying out this tool with the children in your life, please share a story of success, or struggle, you've had with it. Thank you! The more you apply the Positive Discipline teaching and parenting tools, the more they will become a part of your own lifestyle. Practice makes better!

Mistakes can be tough for many of us. Perhaps you grew up with the fear of making mistakes, getting the message that you had to be perfect. Well, I've got good news for you. Mistakes are opportunities to learn and life is more fun when we're learning. So, this is your opportunity to get out there and role model for children how to make mistakes and gracefully, as well as, respectfully, recover from them.



Story - Derek, a 6th grade teacher, assumed a student, Mark, wasn't turning in his homework because he was being defiant. This thought irritated Derek and so he sent Mark to the office to work on his homework at recess. This caused Mark to become more defiant towards Derek and act out in other ways during class. 

Derek decided to sit down and talk with Mark, instead of assuming, what was going on regarding his homework. It ended up that Mark's parents were fighting a lot and were going through a divorce, which left Mark distracted, trying to protect his younger sibling from the household issues. Mark wasn't able to get his homework done. Derek apologized to Mark for not checking in with him sooner (and having assumed) and brainstormed with Mark for solutions regarding the homework problem. They came up with the idea to find a safe place at school for Mark to do homework before he went home. Derek listened to Mark as he started opening up about his feelings at home and he felt for once like Derek cared about him as a person.

Derek role-modeled for Mark that teachers are human and make mistakes, needing to apologize and make amends for them, too.

Below are the 4 R's of Recovery from Mistakes referred to on the tool card.

​4 R's of Recovery from Mistakes:

  1. Recognize that you made a mistake. Feel the embarrassment and then let it go.

  2. Take Responsibility for your mistake without blame or shame.

  3. Reconcile by apologizing when others are involved.

  4. Resolve by focusing on solutions. ​​



Story - 8-year-old Christina's mom, Kerry, used to get mad at her for making mistakes, such as accidentally breaking something. Christina learned to hide her mistakes so that her mom wouldn't get angry at her. Once Kerry realized Christina had learned negative messages about making mistakes, Kerry knew she herself needed to change her approach to mistakes.

Kerry sat down with Christina and explained that going forward whenever Christina made a mistake, she wanted Christina to think, "What do I need to do to clean it up/fix it/repair it? What did I learn from this?" If Christina needed Kerry's help, she could come ask for it and Kerry would not yell at her for making the mistake. 

Sometimes Kerry made her own mistake of raising her voice when Christina made a mistake. However, Kerry would apologize and next time, have patience longer. She was using her own mistake as an opportunity for learning.


Where can you purchase these tool card decks? The card decks are available at (Select products, then select tool cards) and there are versions available for iPhone and Android in the App stores on the phones.

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