The famous inventor Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” In other words, making mistakes is only human, and from our mistakes we grow and learn.
If you are raising kids in today’s world, you know there are many challenges. We live in an age where many households have adults that are out of the house working full-time jobs. Our children, too, have busy schedules with school work, sports, hobbies, extracurricular activities, and chores. With all these demands, plus unrealistic expectations coming from social media, there is a great deal of pressure to make things as good as they possibly can be. Many parents hover over their children in order to promote a “perfect” world and prevent their children from getting hurt or making mistakes. Consequently, many kids strive to live in a “perfect” world. They put a lot of pressure on themselves to have perfect grades, perfect friends, or be perfect at their hobbies and activities. Well, guess what? Life isn’t perfect and it never will be. In fact, we should celebrate that we aren’t perfect and stop trying to achieve the impossible!
Everyone— young or old, rich or poor, boy or girl—makes mistakes. The key to accepting mistakes is to acknowledge that mistakes are normal and the best way to learn. When you acknowledge a mistake and learn from it, you mature as a person and enable yourself to become a better role model for those around you.
For example, if your child makes a mistake—skips a homework assignment, lies to a friend— the worst thing you can do is rush in to rescue them from the consequences. If they neglect to complete a homework assignment, a failing grade should result. If you interfere by contacting their teacher and providing some excuse, the child learns that you will cover for them and help them escape retribution from their bad choices. The same reasoning applies to a child who chooses to lie to a friend. If the lie is revealed, your child may be approached by the friend and questioned about it. If you interfere and provide a reason why your child lied, the child learns that lying is okay, and they are likely to do it again.
As a parent, you naturally want the best for your child. However, some parents confuse wanting the best for their child with wanting to teach their child what is best. Helping your child learn to navigate their way through life when they make mistakes is not only your parental responsibility, it is also your privilege. There are many benefits that your child will acquire as you help them learn from their mistakes.
One benefit your child will learn is understanding. When a parent doesn’t jump in to fix mistakes that their kids have made, the child learns how to fix their mistakes by themselves. With your support, the child sees that your love for them is unconditional and persists even in times when they are not “perfect.”
Another positive benefit your child will learn from dealing with their own mistakes is an ability to make decisions. In the world we live in today, we are bombarded with a constant series of decisions to make. What would we like for breakfast, lunch, or dinner? What do we plan to watch on TV tonight? Who do we want to hang out with today? What color Jell-O do we want? Would you like ketchup, mustard, or both on your hot dog? Which of these 40 varieties of Oreos should I buy? The list of decisions to make is never-ending. As a child, it is sometimes overwhelming to learn to decide things for yourself. However, this is a skill that will benefit your child throughout their lifetime, if they can make a decision and stick with the results. Some decisions they make they will regret. They need to be given the chance to make mistakes, so that next time they might choose differently.
Perhaps most importantly, a benefit from allowing your kids to make mistakes is the confidence they will develop from making a mistake and learning how to deal with the results. Kids that are never given any leeway with their own decisions, about even the simplest of choices, do not build the confidence needed to think for themselves. Kids should learn that they have the ability to take care of themselves now, because one day they will need to take care of themselves, without their parents’ help.
Raising kids is the most influential job that any of us will ever have. We need to learn to help and support them in good times, and not so good times. Our children count on us for our love and understanding, as we teach them to be strong, independent young people.