fear of mistakes

At the end of each school term, we have a parent-teacher conference. Nate's teacher shows us the work he's done in class, tells us what he's doing well, and tells us what we can work on during break. 

Term 1 and term 2, Nate was in 2 different schools. Both terms, his teachers complimented his good behavior, speech, and number/letter recognition, but wanted us to work on his pencil grip. They said he was writing too lightly. It was true. In pencil, you could barely see what he wrote. 

During the break between term 2 and 3, we worked on this a lot. Nate colored or did tracing almost every day, and I told him to make it as dark as possible. He did great! He would sometimes start out light, but I could remind him to write darker, and he would.

Back at school, Nate did really well writing dark until he got to the day he had to write a number freehand for homework. I sat him down to his homework, and he said he didn't know how to do it. He wanted me to hold his hand to do the homework with him. I helped him practice the number on a separate sheet of paper, he practiced on his own a few times, then I told him to do the homework page. 

Nate told me he was afraid. I asked him what he was afraid of. He just shrugged. 

He tried. He started out doing it backwards, attempted to correct it, but ended up with a scribble. He looked at me, repeated that he was afraid, and looked like he was on the verge of tears. 

Suddenly, I realized what he was afraid of. 

"Are you afraid of messing up? You're afraid you'll make a mistake?"
He gave me a very sad, "Yes." 
I told him, "Of course you will mess up sometimes. Everyone makes mistakes, even Daddy and Mama." 
"And even Ben?"
"And Gigi and Grandpa?"
"Yes! Everyone does. But what can you do when you make a mistake?"
He didn't know.
"You try again! You're using a pencil right now. You can erase and try again."

He did. And the next try was perfect. Well, perfect in a relative sense. Not perfect in a beautiful penmanship way, but it was clearly the number it was supposed to be. I congratulated him. The look on his face was priceless!

After that talk, Nate needed a few reminders that it's ok to mess up, and all he needs to do is try again. Eventually, he started writing darker, with more confidence. Sometimes now, he will "make a mistake" for fun (like writing a 3 instead of a 4), so that he can erase it and try again. 

Two weeks ago, they were working on number 8. He had a hard time figuring out the process for that one, but once he got it, his 8s have been beautiful. He also figured out how to write a 9 and 10 that day, before working on them in class (last week and this week).

Numbers Nate wrote 2 weeks ago. The scribble circles were Ben's input. Nate's 4s are weird, but I think that's because in print 4s are closed at the top.

I was impressed when he wrote the above numbers because he went left-to-right. He usually writes right-to-left. I hear that is natural for lefties, and he seems to be one, though it's only been a few months since he stopped switching. Now when he tries to write with his right hand, he holds his right hand with his left to guide himself the way I help him write sometimes.

I was also impressed that the 7 was the only one backwards. His 6s and 5s are often backwards, but I have to write them myself in order to tell which way they should be. I remember having trouble with those as a kid, and lots of practice tracing dots gave me the muscle memory in my hand to write them correctly, but my brain doesn't always remember which way is right. See? I make mistakes, too.


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