An interview with Rachel and Paul Edmondson

Making mistakes can be so frustrating! Especially when you make the same mistake again, or a different mistake. Maybe we’re in a hurry, have a deadline to meet, or not another set of materials to start over. We can feel disappointment and have negative self-talk. Children do this too and it can get in the way of achieving success. Carol Dweck authored the book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” where she talks about the concepts of fixed mindset and growth mindset, and learning to achieve our potential. Our mindset has a great influence over whether we achieve or not.

I love this newly published book by Perth authors, Rachel and Paul Edmondson, “It’s OK to Make Mistakes“.   Full of bright and colourful illustrations by Paul, the book teaches children that it’s ok when they find some things difficult to do, but mistakes give them “special powers” that help them to learn and grow. Information on real life people who achieved challenging things are peppered throughout the book. It includes situations that children could find themselves in – such as running races at school, playing in the playground, or painting a picture. The book helps children understand that they improve with every mistake, and it encourages them to give things a go. Ultimately, a growth mindset helps children to become more resilient and think positively.

I’m so excited to have interviewed Rachel and Paul. I hope you enjoy reading their story and the background to writing the book “It’s OK to Make Mistakes“.

Tell us about yourselves. What are your backgrounds?

Rachel: I grew up in Perth, Western Australia. Paul and I met when we were 19 and we’ve been together ever since (now with two extra humans in the mix!). During the day I’m an advertising creative for a metro radio station in Perth, and by night I’m a homework helper, mediator and snot wiper.

Paul: I was born in New Zealand and moved to Perth with my family when I was 3. After university I spent 15 years working as a graphic designer for various companies, before starting my own business working from home. Having a home office means I’m able to spend more time with our girls, and I get the chance to work on fun projects like this one!

Why did you write “It’s ok to make mistakes”?

One day when we went to pick our eldest daughter up from pre-primary the teacher pulled us aside. During a class activity that day she had made a mistake on her work, which led to a minor meltdown. At that stage we put in down to her being tired and emotional.

But then it happened again, and again.

No matter what we said, she would keep beating herself up over minor errors. She would also give up on attempting new things if she couldn’t get it right straight away. We needed another way to help her process these emotions.

After putting together the story and images with one of her favourite animals (the llamacorn), the book took on a life of its own. We started researching examples of notable people in history who experienced failure before success and incorporated them into the book to help drive the message.

It wasn’t long before we started receiving requests from parents who were dealing with something similar, so we started making copies….and here we are today!

How can parents encourage a growth mindset in their children?

We like to encourage our girls to solve problems on their own and take healthy risks. Their resilience comes learning how to ‘bounce back’, try again, and succeed. For them to be able to build the confidence to do this, we make sure we give them plenty of opportunities to learn from their mistakes….as hard as it is not to intervene sometimes!

We think it’s also important to encourage effort rather than results. Regardless of the outcome, effort is something they can control. We do this simply by tweaking the language we use. For example, instead of saying ‘wow, you did it!’, you can say ‘I saw how much effort you put in!’ or ‘I’m so proud that you tried again and again until you got it!’. We’ve noticed this approach has had a hugely positive effect on their attitude and self-esteem.

Do you have any advice for kids who find it difficult to break through their fear of making mistakes?

The more mistakes you make, the better the reward!

Have you ever passed a hard level on a game? Learnt a difficult trick on your scooter? Mastered a new swimming stroke?

Now think about how you felt when you finally got it. Excitement. Elation. Pride. The moment you scream out ‘YES!’ and punch your hand in the air!

Every time you fail, that moment will feel even better. So fail some more – it’s worth it!

Making mistakes is wrapped up in feelings – from fear and disappointment to pride and happiness. How can we help our kids with their feelings?

We don’t want kids to be ashamed on their feelings. Disappointment, fear, sadness etc are a part of the learning process. But instead of these feelings being a reason to give up, we want to encourage them to channel this energy, and use it as motivation.

We think a good starting point is to set challenging but achievable goals. With the opportunity to achieve success, they will be motivated to tackle bigger challenges and gradually increase their emotional resilience. Like dipping a toe in the water before building up to the big bombie!

If we can change the way kids perceive mistakes so they see them as a normal and necessary part of growing up, they will be able to cope better with the associated emotions.

When you were growing up, did you have a favourite book?

Rachel: I loved ‘The Sign of the Seahorse’ by Graeme Base (and still do!). The language, the illustrations, the message. It’s pure brilliance!

Paul: ‘Where’s Spot?’, I loved that book. The interaction was a key point.

Will we be seeing some more books from you both?

You sure will! Paul is illustrating it as we speak. This one is also inspired by our womb gremlins and will be ideal bedtime entertainment for any child who likes to laugh at burps and farts (so – all of them!).

If you don’t like to make mistakes, here’s something good to know – Mistakes have special powers, to help us learn and grow! Read this book to help you turn your thinking on its head, and together we can learn to CELEBRATE mistakes instead!

‘It’s OK to Make Mistakes’ is a fun, light-hearted and educational book to help kids navigate tricky emotions and build resilience. Every child handles pressure differently. This book aims to reassure them that making mistakes is a part of life and learning. This is supported by real-life examples of notable people and moments in history, as well as fun and colourful illustrations.

For ages 3-7.