Teaching Your Child
that it’s Okay to Make Mistakes
Author: Dr. Julie. Sorenson, DMFT, MA, LPC
Many parents want to create a safe haven for their children and protect them from anything and everything. Keeping your children safe is essential for parents, but sometimes it is teaching children that they can’t make mistakes, and if they do, their parents will take care of the mess. The desire to protect your child from mistakes leaves little room for children to learn from their mistakes. Mistakes should be looked at as growth opportunities.
Today, some parents feel the need to raise rock star children. They have high expectations for their children in sports, arts, academics, or other areas. These expectations make children feel they can’t make a mistake and they need to be perfect. Many parents are helicopter parents or overparent, leaving little room for children to find out who they are by making mistakes and learning how they can grow from the mistakes they make. Watching your child succeed can be fantastic, but what is the cost to children if they don’t think they can make a mistake? Parents go to great lengths to ensure their child doesn’t fail. Putting their child in the best lessons and overscheduling them in areas where parents want to see them flourish could be taking the enjoyment and drive away from their child.
When children don’t learn that making mistakes is okay, it takes away their power and decision-making skills. They may feel helpless and avoid taking risks or trying new things. Making a mistake and failing at things allow children to:
- Become resilient.
- Be motivated.
- Learn how to make good decisions for themselves after making a bad one or two.
- Helps children find themselves.
- Learn patience.
- Overcome challenges.
- Face frustrations
- Pursue their own goals.
Teaching your child that mistakes are a part of learning will allow them less need to feel perfect. It also takes pressure off getting the perfect test score and hopefully decreases anxiety related to the stress of getting everything right. Children who feel the need to be perfect often feel forced thoughts of “What if I make a mistake? What if I don’t get the perfect test score? What if I’m not the best on the team? What if I am not the first chair in band?” These thoughts can be a painful and never-ending loop of emotions, sometimes leading to depression, anxiety, substance abuse, or eating disorders. The need to feel perfect can stifle creativity.
When children feel that making mistakes is okay, it can increase their self-esteem. It allows them to take risks and be comfortable in their skin. Mistakes enable children to grow, and parents guide them to understand and explain the difference between mistakes and life-altering mistakes. Teach your child ways to learn from the mistakes they make and how to navigate through the mistakes.
Youth is a time to explore and to make mistakes that can teach valuable life lessons.