Help Your Kids Learn From Their Mistakes

by | Sep 14, 2021 | Family, Learning, Parenting with Purpose, Tips

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Champion Your Parenting:

Do we all really learn from our mistakes? Kids make a lot of mistakes. They are learning so much each day, that mistakes are bound to happen. So how can a parent help their child to learn from their mistakes? How can you help your child avoid getting frustrated, angry or giving up when they make a mistake? I suggest parents should focus on themselves instead of on their child. I believe you can make a big impact on how your child handles mistakes, by adjusting your own practices.  

Here are my five tips for helping your kids learn from their mistakes and none of them are about the kids! Yep, you read that right. These five tips are things that you can do, as a parent, that will help your child to better handle making a mistake, to learn from the mistake and to persevere through their problems the next time.

Woman hugging young girl

1. Change How You React

How do you react when your child makes a mistake? Do you get upset, yell at them, or show your disappointment? Perhaps you roll your eyes? Do you make negative comments? No one likes to be treated that way when they make a mistake. Put yourself in your child’s place. Would you want your spouse or your boss to treat you poorly when you make a mistake?

Here are some examples of common kids mistakes: Your child spills milk all over the table- how do you react? Your child leaves their things lying around – how do you react? Your child disobeys you? How do you react?

Your negative reaction teaches them that making mistakes is to be avoided at all costs. If the action is truly a mistake, you shouldn’t get mad. Instead, you should help them to solve the problem and find a workable solution. Spilt milk- Have them clean it up, or help them clean it up. Leaving their things around the house – Calmly set a timer and give them a second chance to clean it up. Disobedient child – Discuss the circumstances, ask them for ideas for an appropriate consequence.

The bottom line is, your child won’t learn from their mistakes if they are reacting to your emotions instead of problem-solving for a solution to the mistake. They can learn from their mistakes if you speak calmly, ask the right questions, smile knowingly, and point out a positive outcome. Changing your reaction to their mistake takes practice, so give it a try.

2. Model How YOU Learn From Your Mistakes

You could start by sharing stories of mistakes you made as a child. They may be funny stories. Our daughter once used a whole bulb of garlic in the meatloaf instead of one clove. She definitely learned from that mistake. It was a mistake, but it also became a funny family story. Do you have some stories of mistakes?

How do you handle your own mistakes? Do you own them? Or do you place blame on others? Think of when you are driving the kids around. If you make a driving mistake and someone honks the horn, what is your reaction? Do you get angry? Or do you model better reactions?

Practice saying these phrases: I guess I won’t do that again. Oops, I made a mistake, sorry. Boy, was I wrong about that. When your kids hear and see you handle your mistakes as a lesson learned, they will see that mistakes aren’t horrible.

Do you apologize when you make a mistake? Do you own up to your mistakes, even publicly? Your children will learn to own their mistakes and to apologize much faster and easier if they see you doing it when you make a mistake.

Raising five children gave me plenty of opportunities to make mistakes, and losing my temper was often one of my mistakes. When I had calmed down, I would apologize for my outburst and mend my relationship with my child. It helped them learn that parents make mistakes, and mistakes can be forgiven. Model making apologies and accepting your mistakes. Your children are watching you.

angry boy at desk holding broken pencil - learn from their mistakes

3. Coach, Don’t Rescue

Parents are quick to rush to the rescue when their child is making a mistake or suffering consequences of a bad decision. Resist the urge to do that! It can start as early are the toddler years.

Our first child was frustrated because she couldn’t wiggle her way around some furniture when she was learning to crawl. I wanted to move the obstacles, but my husband said, “No, let her struggle. She is learning ‘frustration tolerance.’” He was right. Learning to tolerate when things go wrong is a life skill that needs to be exercised.

Do you rush in to fix mistakes for your child? Do you explain away their missteps? What happens when they forget their lunch at home? If they break a neighbor’s window, do you let them own their mistake?

The easiest way to start to Coach them instead of Rescue them is to ask questions. Here are some examples: You forgot your lunch? Oh, that’s too bad. How are you going to solve this problem? You were disrespectful to your soccer coach and now they are benching you? Wow, that must be maddening. How can you fix that?

Think about the mistakes your child makes and formulate ways to prompt them to be the problem solver. You may need to practice!

Scrabble tiles Learn from Failure (learn from your mistakes)

4. Get Used To Defending Your Kid’s Mistakes

No one’s children are perfect, but we don’t like it when our kids make mistakes that others’ can see. Sometimes our kids’ mistakes become public and can be quite embarrassing. This is when your kids will be watching your reaction very closely. Be ready to defend them, but not make excuses for them. Your child shouldn’t be the topic of gossip.

I remember my parent’s being very embarrassed by one of my sibling’s behavior. Even though it wasn’t my problem, it bothered me that mom and dad seemed more concerned about the neighbors than about what my sibling had done.

Focus on caring for your child and protecting their dignity. If your child got caught stealing candy, you don’t want the whole neighborhood to know, but you also want them to understand that you are helping your child to learn from their mistakes.

5. Review Your Expectations

It’s possible that your child struggles with learning from their mistakes because they feel pressure from you. What expectations are you communicating to your child?

Do you praise their effort instead of their outcome? If you have a child that works hard to get average grades, you need to praise their effort. Children are very aware of their parent’s reaction and body language.

One way to practice how you react to your child’s mistakes is to access positive messaging. There are many resources with inspirational quotes. A dear friend of mine posts a daily quote by the garage door each day. It helps remind her to keep focused each day on the good.

Here’s a few good quotes that made me smile:

Learn to admit your mistakes, … before someone exaggerates the story!

You can learn a great thing from your mistakes when you aren’t busy denying them.

You will make mistakes, everyone does, but that’s why pencils have erasers. (Amy Hughes)

I’ve learned so much from my mistakes,…I’m thinking of making a few more.

You don’t learn to walk by following rules, you learn by doing and falling over. (Richard Branson)

The greatest mistake a man can ever make is to be afraid of making one.

Conclusion ~ show them how to Learn from their mistakes

You can make a difference in your child’s ability to cope with mistakes by focusing on your own practices. It is much easier to change your ways than to try to change someone else. You will make mistakes, but remember, that’s the sign that you are learning something new.

By Lisa Reichelt, M.Ed., Parent Coach


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