Making mistakes is a normal part of life—but try telling that to a teenager! While your teen years may be 20 or 30 years behind you, it’s easy to recall how stressful that time may have been and how insecure you may have felt when you made wrong decisions.
Dr. Michele Borba, an internationally recognized expert on parenting and child/teen issues, an award-winning author of 23 parenting and education books, explains that while this can be a sensitive topic for your child, it’s an important discussion to have since learning from mistakes is critical for success.
“Kids cannot learn to persevere unless they recognize how to deal with failure,” says Dr. Borba, who is also a frequent guest on numerous shows, including the TODAY show, The View and Dr. Phil. “In fact, one of the most highly correlated traits of successful individuals is that they don’t let mistakes derail them.”
Here are three ways to encourage your child how to learn this valuable lesson.
Say It’s OK. “The first step in helping kids realize errors don’t have to fatal is to simply say, ‘It’s OK to make a mistake,’” states Dr. Borba. She refers back to the time she was a school teacher and would make it a point to announce on the first day of school that there was nothing wrong with making mistakes in her classroom. “We need to give our kids ‘permission to fail’ and help them recognize mistakes can be positive learning experiences,” she says. “Find the time to tell your child the success lesson—mistakes don’t mean failure, they’re just a chance to start again.”
Admit Your Mistakes. “Whether you’re aware of it or not, your child sees you as ‘all powerful and all knowing,’” says Dr. Borba. It’s no secret that all of us have made the wrong decisions from time to time—and many people like to keep those errors hidden away. But Dr. Borba strongly advises to bring those poor judgments to the surface. “Admitting your errors to your child will help him recognize mistake-making happens to everyone. They’re also watching to see how you’ve handled failure.”
Explain What You’ve Learned. Once you’ve told your child about a previous mistake, the next important step is sharing the invaluable takeaway lesson you have learned from the experience. If you’re uncomfortable sharing a serious mistake, like a failed marriage, offer a less dramatic example. You can share a story like, “Last week I was late for work because I couldn’t find my car keys. I learned that I need to organize my belongings so that I’m no longer late for work and to avoid any problems with my boss.” Once you’ve finished telling your story, then ask your child what her recent mistake was and what she has learned from it. “Once they realize mistakes don’t have to be ‘deadly,’ they will be more likely to overcome their obstacles,” says Dr. Borba.