Early yearsOver 5

Let your Child Know It’s OK to Make Mistakes



Let your Child Know It’s OK to Make Mistakes

Why do our kids make mistakes? Because they are human.

It’s a fact that they will keep making mistakes for the rest of their lives, just like us. There is nothing we can do to stop it. That’s why one of the greatest lessons we can teach them is that it’s perfectly fine to make a mistake. Whether it was something that we asked them not to do, or a mistake in their homework or even a bad decision.

Many adults nowadays are leading a very stressful life just because they never learned this lesson. They were taught that everything needs to be perfect, so they have become so obsessed with being perfect that they avoid taking risks, fall down with every little failure and find it hard to enjoy their daily life. But whether we like it or not, life will never be perfect.

When we teach our children a healthy approach to dealing with mistakes, we encourage them to always try harder, we let them know that this is the best way to learn, we replace the stress and guilt with problem solving and strategies for avoiding the same mistake in the future.

Some suggestions to help you do that:

1. Acknowledge their courage and good intentions: When your child comes to you with something that he/she is aware that they did wrong, acknowledge the fact that they admit their mistakes, let them know that you appreciate it and move from there without adding more guilt. If they don’t know or didn’t notice or if they say they didn’t mean to, acknowledge this as well, and remember that your main role here would be to teach them why this was not the best choice to help them fix it and avoid it in the future.

2. Minimize the drama: many of us were brought up with the idea that you need to feel bad about your actions to learn from them, a lot of research and years of application are suggesting now that this is not true. A child behaves better when they feel better. Criticizing, accusing or yelling at a child stresses them out, even more than adults.

3. Search for the feelings behind the action: all feelings are accepted, but some actions are not. Let your child know that you understand how they feel; this is key to a strong open relationship. Help them learn about their feelings and know how to express them in a positive way.

4. Let them handle the consequences of their actions: for example: if your 10 year-old knows that it’s his responsibility to pack his swimsuit for the swim training, let him take responsibility for his action when he doesn’t pack it, for ex. he might need to go explain this to his coach or miss the opportunity to swim this time. That would be a much better lesson than yelling at him and explaining this on his behalf or going back to get it for him. If your 3 year-old spills her milk on the floor, let her clean it afterwards, even if she thinks it’s fun to clean with tissue, all she needs to learn by time is that there are consequences for my action and it’s my responsibility to handle them.

5. Involve your child in problem solving: ask your child for their input: “How do you think we can fix this?” “What can you do to solve this problem?” “How can we make sure this doesn’t happen again?” You would be surprised by time how this teaches problem-solving and self-discipline.

6. Model positive approach for dealing with mistakes: your kids see you make mistakes all the time, when you forget something, yell at them or say a bad word. Admitting the mistake, apologizing and handling it constructively would teach your child by example how it’s OK to make a mistake, take charge of fixing it and move on with confidence.

7. Let them know you love them anyway: their is nothing more powerful than a parent’s unconditional love, if your child learns that home is the safe place where I can make mistakes and still be loved, accepted and not judged, he will always come back to share his problems with you, he would learn that “when I make a mistake, everyone might judge me, but my parents will help me make things right.”

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Mai Elwy

Mai Elwy, MA Counseling Psychologist and Parenting educator. Mai is the founder of Raising Happy for Parenting and Counseling Services. She received her parenting training and license in the UK and has a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from the American University in Cairo. During her practice, Mai has worked with hundreds of parents, teachers, and social workers. She has also worked as a parenting expert for many organizations including UNICEF Egypt, and Care International, as well as many schools and nurseries.
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