Importance of mistakes

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”  ― Albert Einstein

When children are given the opportunity to struggle and sometimes fail, you allow them to develop important social and emotional skills. Of course, you shouldn’t risk their safety or not respond when what is needed most is reassurance. It is often during times when things aren’t working out or pose a challenge that children have the opportunity to develop coping and resilience skills. Coping skills are like muscles; we don’t know how strong they truly are until we need to use them.

Consider the learning that occurs when a child and a friend have an argument.  Even though it is unpleasant, children learn to reflect on their own actions, manage their emotions, take another’s perspective, solve problem, and compromise. If parents swoop in to fix those problems, children miss out on that critical skill-building. Further, children who don’t have opportunities to fail or struggle and recover have lower self-confidence and a less developed self-concept. They tend to be more fearful of failure and less willing to try new things because they don’t know how they will handle it.

Encouraging Kids to Take Risks and Helping Them Learn from Their Mistakes

  • When your child asks for help: From tying shoes to homework, respond with, “Let me see you try first and then I will help with the rest.” Or you may offer to do it together. If your child is non-verbal, give words to his actions so he can start to learn the process.
  • When your child asks for an answer: A common parental instinct is to share all of your hard earned wisdom but in most cases it’s best to support your children as they learn on their own. Start with asking them what they think or what they have tried. Then you’ll know where you’re starting from and can support them as they discover the answer. If they guess the wrong solution, support them as they experiment and discover why they weren’t right. You may not have time for this process every time but it proves invaluable when you do.

When something goes wrong: Maybe they are fighting with a friend or doing something socially inappropriate like lying or they accidentally broke a neighbour’s window. Instead of telling your children how to fix it or fixing it yourself, start by asking how they think they should fix it. Guiding children to reflect on the problem takes more time, but provides rich learning and skill-building opportunities.

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