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Admitting Our Mistakes, Resetting


“You need to reset your voice,” one of our first graders reminds his mother when he thinks her words are carrying too much intensity. How does she respond? The human tendency would be to counter by explaining why she’s upset. “I’m getting louder because you’re not hearing me. I’ve asked you to clean up.”

However, this first grader’s mom chooses to listen to her son’s perceptions and show that she hears him. Even though she still wants him to clean up, her priority is also to show her child that she’s willing to reflect on the way she’s behaving in the moment and choose a different course. That’s what she wants her son to be able to do. “Resetting” is the word the Nurtured Heart Approach uses to describe the ability at any age to pause, reflect on how we’re acting, and consciously make a change.


At our school, where this approach is widely used, children learn about the positive effects of resetting so they can continue joining with others in an activity. It’s interesting that they learn to integrate Nurtured Heart principles into their own perspectives and, like this first grader, use the tools to improve their interactions. Instead of reacting angrily, children can learn to calmly and ask each other to reset.

Part of that learning occurs because teachers freely talk about the ways they handle their own mistakes. (“I tell my students about the ways I’m resetting myself during the day.”) Acknowledging out loud by saying things like “Oops, I’m giving up too easily” or “Sorry, I wasn’t giving you my full attention” provides an important role model for their students.


The goal is to raise a generation of children who freely admit mistakes, then apologize and take a different path. Imagine how peaceful and compassionate social relations could be if people focused on examining their own missteps rather than blaming others.


Adults report that they discover surprising and powerful benefits to learning how to reset their own ways of thinking, as well as their behavior. Admitting our mistakes brings us closer to others. It can also make us more self-forgiving. When we are starting to blame ourselves for something done or undone, we can exercise self-compassion by simply reminding ourselves “You need to reset!”