An effective parenting strategy is to train children how to learn from their mistakes. This is really a life skill that can be taught to children of various ages, in age appropriate circumstances. While this parenting strategy may be challenging for some parents to embrace, taking small steps will help the learning process for both children and parents.
The strategy of training children to learn from the mistakes they make begins with parents acknowledging their own typical responses to their children. In efforts to protect their children from the pain and consequences of mistakes and help lead them in specific, maybe safer directions, parents often resort to over-instruction. It can become a habit of controlling decisions made out of love and a desire to keep children safe and secure.
When children are constantly led or directed in their decisions, even for these seemingly loving reasons, they can actually be held back and negatively impacted. Children who are always told the steps in the process of loading the dishwasher and supervised in the process will never have the need to actually know the information for themselves. When kids are consistently directed on which clothing should be chosen for the day they don’t learn the responsibility for checking the weather and choosing appropriate attire. Basic skills like these need to have value for children, and sometimes the only way something becomes valuable is when the alternative is realized.
If a child is given the opportunity to leave homework on the kitchen table and forgotten, meaning a poor mark in school, that child will learn the value of responsibility with schoolwork. Many times, that child will learn that value much faster and with greater understanding than the child who is consistently questioned each evening and morning about the status of the homework. This is not to say that parents should just blindly let their children navigate through life decisions. It does mean, however, that appropriate levels of guidance used thoughtfully, even when it means a child might suffer consequences of a mistake, can be the best approach to teaching responsibility.
Parents need to assess their individual child’s abilities when training them the benefits of learning from their own mistakes. When appropriate and safe for the child, parents need to consider letting their children fall down, and then be there to help them get back up afterwards. Parents who consistently block their children from ever falling are teaching their children they are not strong enough for the task themselves. This can actually teach children that their own parents don’t have enough trust in them of their abilities.
Training children to learn from their own mistakes also lightens the load for parents. They no longer have to battle constantly with children, trying to convince them follow responsible guidelines. In the long run parents save themselves the frustrations of trying to convince their children that they know best.
Watching children make mistakes is not easy for parents. Seeing them have to face the consequences can be even more difficult. Both of these are necessary, however, for training children the value of learning from their mistakes. Parents can, and should, still be there as guiding forces in their lives, just not controlling ones. Allowing children to discover the natural consequences of choices is an extremely beneficial life skill.
Your friend and fellow parent,
Parenting Coach, Author & Speaker