Teaching Your Child to Learn from Mistakes

Developing the ability to learn from mistakes is an important part of growing up. When children can take responsibility for their actions, they will experience benefits in all areas of life. They will be less critical of themselves and more open to trying new things.  

While there is much to be learnt from making mistakes, it’s not easy to impart this to children in a culture which celebrates excellence above all else.

Follow these tips to teach children about the value of mistakes.

Allow Kids to Fail

This is a hard one for many parents to grasp because the last thing they want is to see their child suffer. Mistakes, however, are part of life, and kids need a chance to make some so they can learn from their own experiences.

Don’t rush in with excuses for the teacher when your child fails to do their homework or try to smooth things over if they’ve behaved selfishly in the playground. Your child needs to face the consequences of their actions so growth can happen.

Praise Effort, Not Results

Stanford professor Carol Dweck did a study on 5th grade students in New York City schools to discover the effects of praise on academic results. The first group was praised for their intelligence and the second group for their effort. 

The students were then given a difficult paper designed for 8th graders. Those who had been praised for effort worked hard and persevered despite making a lot of mistakes. When they were given another test for their grade level, they performed 30% better, while those praised for intelligence became easily discouraged in the harder exam and did 20% worse in their grade level exam. 

The important takeaway is that students praised for effort developed resilience to keep going when things got hard because they weren’t concerned about making mistakes. 

Avoid Shaming and Ridicule

One of the most damaging things a parent can do is shame or ridicule a child when they’ve done something wrong. This causes them to develop fear and anxiety around making mistakes which can be paralysing. 

Your role is to support your child and let them know your love is unconditional. It’s important they understand that mistakes don’t define them and that it’s okay to be wrong.

Talk Through the Experience

Reflection is the key to learning from experiences. Encourage your child to reflect on mistakes by asking why their behaviour was a problem and who their actions affected.

Talk about what they’ve learned and how they’ll behave differently in future. It may take some time to reach this point, so don’t rush the discussion or force your views on them. They need to work things out for themselves. 

Come Up With Solutions 

Rather than grounding your child or taking away their phone when they’ve misbehaved, talk with them about how they can make amends for their mistake. This may involve apologising, fixing a broken item or donating something to charity.

Considering solutions will help your child feel better about themselves and more open to learning from their mistakes.