Thursday, September 24, 2009

Careless Mistakes

We have a new catch phrase at our house: careless mistakes. I've been hearing it from both of my children, several times a week, since school started. "I would have gotten an A+ on my test, but I made a few careless mistakes." It just rolls off their tongues as if the mistakes are perfectly acceptable because they were careless in nature.

It doesn't sound like a term that either one of them would have come up with on their own, so I'm assuming they are quoting their teachers. I'm sure their teachers use the phrase as an incentive to do better on the next test, but my children use it as a defense. They plead not guilty by reason of careless mistakes. It's much easier to cop a plea than to admit that their efforts, or lack thereof, might have had something to do with their oversights.

When my son brought home his math test this week, the numbers circled in red did not indicate that he had a fundamental problem understanding the material, but rather that he was sloppy and absentminded. These careless mistakes are happening so often that I'm beginning to wonder if he and his teacher will soon abandon the term "careless mistakes" and replace it with "chronic mistakes".

My daughter has been after us for about, oh, I don't know, roughly 3 years to buy her a cell phone. When we were finally ready to succumb, my husband threw out a challenge: ace your math test and you'll get your precious phone sooner rather than later. A few days later she strutted through the door announcing, "Yeah, baby, somebody is getting a cell phone!" I was pleased as punch for her and told my husband that he better deliver the goods. So imagine my surprise when she brought the test home the next day and I saw that she received a 90, not a 100. "Um, hello? Acing a test means getting all the answers correct." Her response? "Pfff, come on, Mom, I did, these are just careless mistakes." Seriously?

Now granted, careless mistakes made on math tests should not have huge ramifications (yes, she still got the phone), but careless mistakes made by a bank teller, a construction worker, an airplane pilot or a neurosurgeon could have horrible repercussions and I don't want my children to lose sight of that fact. And add fertility doctor to that list: I read an article in yesterday's paper about a woman in Ohio who is carrying another couple's child after a fertility clinic implanted her with the wrong embryo. Now that was a careless mistake of monumental proportions.

I don't have a problem with my children making mistakes, but I am getting a bit fed up with their cavalier attitude toward their slip-ups. They act as if there is nothing they can do about careless mistakes; they simply come with the territory. And that might be true, after all, they are just kids. But at what age do careless mistakes become just plain old stupid mistakes?

Some people are paralyzed by the fear of making mistakes. I don't want my children to ever feel that way (although, surely there's a happy medium?). Oh, for the love of Pete, I am trying to do two things at about mistakes and make brownies for a friend and it seems I've made a careless mistake...I've added too much oil. Hmm. Looks like I will have to double the recipe and keep some brownies for the Reids. I hope my children learn from my careless mistakes. Or are my mistakes considered just plain old stupid mistakes because I am no longer a kid? No, I don't make stupid mistakes, only very, very clever ones. And I'm pretty sure that my kids will agree when I offer them a brownie this afternoon.


Karen said...

It says you posted this at 2:37 but it's only 2:03 now. What kind of mistake is that?

Anonymous said...

someone carelessly set the pc to the wrong time

Anonymous said...

I agree with you and have the same problem. I tell my daughter, "don't get the things you KNOW wrong, there will be plenty of things down the road that you will get wrong because you DONT know the answer. You can't afford, for example, on the SATs, to get the ones you KNOW wrong, because there will be enough you DON'T know that you will get wrong, and that is the problem. I have basically given up, because the reality is that no matter how many times she tells me she checked her paper over and over, she does not get out of one test without at least 2 stupid/careless mistakes, nor does she complete most homework assignments in math without at least one or two careless mistakes (and I'm talking about copying the wrong SIGN ( +, -), reading the question wrong (angle instead of triangle), adding together 7 and 3 when the question asks her to subtract it, etc. She says, "so, I still got a 94, that's an A. you are so critical you should be happy that i got a 94". but I tell her that's not the point. it's bad habits. and as she goes on, and her grades inevitably fall, it will be too late to develop good study habits I have basically given up because i have tried everything and she just doesn't care. she doesn't believe that one day it will haunt her. by the time it happens it will be too late.