let kids make mistakes

How to Step Back and Let Kids Make Mistakes

Parents might have a difficult time letting go and allowing their kids to make mistakes. We want to shield our kids from feeling frustrated or disappointed. Above all, we want to protect them from feeling any pain. We might step in, almost instinctively, to prevent our kids from making any mistakes on their own. At worst, we have fears of what will happen to our kids in the future due to one failure or one mistake.

Rarely does our entire life path hinge upon one bad day or one regrettable moment. We have a chance to turn our lives around at any moment along the way. A failed math test will not necessarily lead to being held back a grade, nor will repeating a grade lead to being a failure as an adult. As parents, we might need to step back more frequently than we step in, consider the possible consequences, and act accordingly to guide our kids through their worst moments.

Failure Can Be Our Best Teacher

While protecting our kids from short-term disappointment or failure, we might be depriving our kids of long-term growth that will help them build resiliency as young adults. Failure is often the best teacher when we keep things in perspective. Looking back on our lives, some of the best lessons came from not when we succeeded, but from when we failed and got back out there.

Failure is an excellent opportunity to learn valuable life skills. We might sometimes need to sit back, knowing that what our child is doing will not work out for them. Watching kids fail can be difficult for most parents. However, we can be there for our kids when things go awry and guide our kids to making better choices based on their experiences.

Guiding Our Kids After Mistakes

If kids fail at a poorly executed plan of their choosing, we might be tempted to use this moment as an excuse to have an “I told you so!” lecture. After all, we knew all along, so shouldn’t we reclaim our authority? Maybe our child will learn to listen to us more often? The lesson in failure is not “that we should have listened” or “that other people know better.” Instead, failure leaves an imprint in our experiences. We learn by both going after what feels good and avoiding what feels wrong.

Kids, especially teens, might believe that they know best—that they cannot be told what to do, or that they know everything. As parents, we know that this is not true. We were their age once, and as we grew up, we realized that we did not have a clue about the world. Our kids need this feeling of overconfidence to propel them to explore the world around them. They need this feeling of invulnerability to experiment and try new things. Getting out into the world, trying things their own way will ultimately help them develop into well-rounded, healthy adults.

Instead of using failure as a moment to show our kids that we know best, we can listen to them and troubleshoot solutions. Our kids will be who they are, no matter what we want them to become or what we expect. They might attempt pursuits that we do not approve of or understand. However, we ultimately have no control over another person’s actions or motives. What we can control is our response and how we manage ourselves.

Keeping Ourselves Grounded

We might tell our kids a thousand times to study for upcoming tests. We might tell them not to waste all their money on video games. Fears of kids growing up into adults without high school diplomas or having financial issues flash in our minds. We want to have control over the worst-case scenarios. However, we can keep grounded and remember that one failure will not create a domino effect leading to a wasted life. How our kids handle failure will determine their success much more than the sum of each failure.

When Should We Step In?

Often, we need to step in after our kids make a mistake. For example, if we have a deal worked out with our kids that they can access a car provided they pay insurance, they might “blow all their money” one month. We might need to let it happen, bracing for them to get upset when they lose access to the car. When our kids experience pain from losing a desired responsibility, the lesson will have more weight. We can help them find solutions for success in these moments.

However, if our kids are doing anything immediately threatening to their life and limb, we might need to step in to prevent them from making these kinds of mistakes. Step in when the immediate consequence is dire, and learn to let go when a mistake can lead to a life lesson. Shielding our children from all experiences of pain can deprive them of life’s greatest teachable moments.

As kids grow up, they will make mistakes. They might spend all their money on things that we consider wasteful; they might stay up late all night and fail crucial exams in school. As parents, we hope to shield our kids from experiencing all pain. We hate to see them suffer, especially when we know that what they are doing will lead to failure. We can keep our emotions in check and might need to allow our kids to fail. Even when we know the inevitable outcomes, sometimes, failure is the only way kids will learn what not to do. However, some issues can be severe, and kids might make mistakes that threaten “life and limb” or lead to dire consequences. If your teen engages in problematic behaviors that feel out-of-control, Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center can help you. Call us today at (303) 443-3343. We’re here to help your family’s fire burn brightest.

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