7 Ways to Help Teens Learn From Mistakes

Learning From Mistakes

We want to keep an eye on our children. We don’t want to miss a thing. We want to be in the moment with them. We might even overprotect or shelter them from the opportunity to make mistakes or fail.

But our long-term goal in parenting is to raise young people primed to thrive in the future. Think about it. Once you do, you’ll understand the critical importance of letting them learn from their mistakes. When they do, they will be strengthened with the knowledge and wisdom gained from experience.

Help your children learn from their mistakes with these helpful dos and don’ts.

1) Stay Calm

Yes, we need to stay calm. If we aren’t able to maintain a sense of control our teens will sense this and take in our feelings of anger, fear or panic. We’ll also discipline more effectively when we calmly teach them as opposed to attacking them by saying, “What were you thinking?!”

2) Wait Until They’ve Calmed Down

Don’t bother talking through a problem if they’re still in panic mode. It’s virtually impossible for them to absorb what’s being taught.  For young people to gain protective insights they have to be thoughtful.  Nobody can be thoughtful or reflective when in a state of panic.

3) Don’t Lecture

Lectures generally backfire. Teens often don’t understand or hear lectures — especially if they’re already upset. We want our children to come to their own conclusions and find their own solutions. This enables life experiences to add to their growing tool belt of decision-making smarts.

Let them know you trust them and their ability to work through a problem. Let them try to solve issues themselves and own their solutions.

4) No Guilt

Don’t use guilt on kids even if it really feels like they deserve to feel regret. Chances are, they already feel badly about what they’ve done. Instead, tell them about concerns. Brainstorm together some potentially better ways to handle similar situations down the road.

5) No to “I Told You So!”

Don’t say it. It just doesn’t work. Sounding smug will discourage teens from asking for help the next time they make a mistake. Instead, try a more “to err is human” stance to reinforce your role. As guides, we’ll help foster healthy back-and-forth interactions that will build teens’ skills in honest analysis and improved decision-making. In turn, these skills will help them develop the self-confidence that is core to future success.

6) Listen

Be their sounding board. Let them know you trust them and their ability to work through a problem. Let them try to solve issues themselves and own their solutions. Notice their increasing skills in handling life’s ups and downs.

7) Give Unconditional Love

Let your children know you love them, even when they make mistakes. Remind them that there’s always a chance for forgiveness. A chance to try again, but with a different approach. Unconditional love does not mean unconditional acceptance. You do not have to accept behaviors that compromise safety or family values. But you should always accept your child.

Earn Wisdom Through Mistakes

Let young people learn from their mistakes. They will earn wisdom that is best taught through life’s (good and not-so-good) experiences. Even better if they also come to understand that people become their best selves through trial and error, recovery and improvement. This includes, perhaps most critically, their capacity to restore relationships even after they’ve disappointed or frustrated someone they care about.

How Well do you Handle Your Teen’s Mistakes?
Take this quiz to discover if you’ve mastered this challenging aspect of parenting.

About Eden Pontz

Eden Pontz is Executive Producer and Director of Digital Content for CPTC. She oversees digital media content development and production for Parentandteen.com. She also writes, copyedits, and produces articles, podcasts, and videos for the site. Her pieces cover a range of topics including teen development, peer pressure, and mentoring. Eden brings years of experience as a former Executive Producer of Newsgathering at CNN, as well as a field producer, writer, and reporter for CNN and other news organizations.

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