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You Need to Let Your Child Make Mistakes

Learning from Mistakes

You Need to Let Your Child Make Mistakes

It can be hard to let your child make mistakes. As a parent, you are there to protect them from harm while they learn and grow into healthy adults who can protect themselves. It goes against all your instincts to simply stand back and let your child fail. Still, one of the most important skills of parenthood is to learn what mistakes are harmful and should be prevented, and what mistakes are, well, not.

Children often learn by doing, just like the rest of us, and a part of that is failing. As adults, we call it trial and error. It is important, therefore, to let your child make mistakes and fail, so that they can learn from them. It’s the quickest way for your child to learn to succeed.

Good Mistakes

When your child is learning and doing, they are bound to make mistakes. This is why mealtimes with your toddler are so messy. They are learning to eat solid food, but it takes some real work to make the necessary skills come together in the right combination to achieve a successful bite of food. The mistakes often litter the eating area by the time your child’s meal is done. These kinds of mistakes are wholly without consequences for your child. No matter how many times they fail, you will ensure that they get enough food to eat. The rest is up to them. Imagine what would happen if you tried to keep your child from failing to take a proper bite forever, though.

You would have to feed them yourself forever. Of course that’s if they would let you! Curious toddlers are anxious to do these kinds of things for themselves, so you might simply end up with a battle royale on your hands. Either way, anyone can see that it is in your child’s best interests for you to allow them to make mistakes while feeding themselves. Not only that, it's in your best interests as well. This is the kind of good mistake that you do not need to begrudge your child.

Bad Mistakes

There are times when you should step in to prevent the mistake your child is about to make. In these cases, such as when your child reaches to touch a hot stove, the lesson is no doubt valuable, but the consequences of that lesson are too high. You should always be prepared to monitor your child’s behavior and prevent them from making those mistakes that will cause real harm. These are the bad mistakes, as opposed to the ones that irritate, upset, or disappoint your child.

Bad mistakes involve lessons that your child is not ready to learn without the assistance of an intermediary. In the case of the stove, for example, you can help your child learn the lesson without harming themselves by holding their hand near enough to feel the heat and explaining the danger in no uncertain terms. Just remember not to be too cautious when it comes to mistakes; children always learn faster and better when their lessons are hands-on in nature.

Teach Your Child How to Handle Mistakes

Children have to learn how to handle failure and mistakes. Some kids will be able to just walk away from failure without a care in the world, while for others it will deeply affect them. Learning how to deal with failure in a healthy way is just as important as the mistakes themselves.

The best way to teach your child how to handle failure is by example. When you make a mistake or fail to do something correctly, show your child the right way to react. Don't yell, throw a fit, or engage in a bout of self-deprecation. Accept your mistake, learn from it, and go on.

When your mistake affects someone else, add in a genuine apology. Teaching your child the right way to apologize is important. Instead of just saying “I'm sorry”, say “I'm sorry for [action], it was uncalled for and disrespectful”, for example. The second version of an apology directly owns up to the mistake at hand. It feels much more authentic than just a two-word apology.

In addition, teach your children to avoid the “I'm sorry if” and “I'm sorry, but” apologies. The former doesn't take ownership of the ways that your actions affected someone else. The latter makes it seem like you're trying to excuse or justify your behavior. Neither apology is a good one.

In the end, your child needs to learn how to see their mistakes as teaching moments for themselves. Encourage your child to avoid beating themselves up over a mistake. Once they've thought over it enough to learn all they can from it, and apologized if necessary, it's best to move forward and stop thinking about it.

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