Teaching Kids About Mistakes – By Diane Lang, Therapist, Parenting and Life Coach

Diane LangBack to school is not just about new clothes and school supplies – it also means back to the books, the tests and the report cards – what better time to start talking to your kids about the pros and cons of making mistakes? Ultimately, mistakes are good learning opportunities – and that’s what we should be teaching our kids.

When adults make mistakes we often become very hard on ourselves and its not unusual for us to voice our frustration aloud. But as parents we need to remember that our children are listening to our words, and watching our non-verbal behavior, every time we get upset at ourselves. They will learn to do what we do.

Mistakes are not all bad and we should be teaching our kids to learn from theirs. If we allow ourselves to see our own mistakes as teachable moments, we should be able to help our kids see them the same way.

Here are some tips on teaching our kids about mistakes:

Teach your kids that we all make mistakes.
Yes, everyone makes mistakes including mommy and daddy. Mistakes are a part of life. Give some examples of mistakes you have made. Tell your kids what you have learned from your own mistakes. If you have benefited from a mistake let your kids know.

Teach your kids that its’ good to make mistakes.
If you’re learning from your mistakes, they can’t be bad. Sure you want to be careful not to make them, but it’s not the end of the world when it happens. When your kids make mistakes help them see the good in it.

Teach your kids about persistence.
Remind your kids that they are winners. Hard work is all about the effort and quitting is not an option.

Teach your kids to set their own definition of success.
Don’t let the media portray that success is all about money, fame and beauty. Kids need to know that there is much more to success and that we all define success differently. Let your kids know that superficiality does not mean success or happiness.

Teach your kids about the journey.
Accomplishment is not about winning or losing, it’s about persistence and the journey to get there. Teach your kids about the good that comes from making mistakes. I have made some great friends when making some of my biggest mistakes. I learned how strong I was each and every time I made a mistake. I learned to laugh at myself.

My mistakes have directed me to my true path. I’ve made lots of career mistakes but they all lead me to where I should be and where I am now. This is an important lesson to teach your older kids too.

As a college professor, I have seen a lot of kids become frustrated with themselves for going to the wrong college or choosing the wrong major. It’s important to assure them that it’s okay – they will learn from this and eventually wind up headed in the right direction anyway.

Help them to see the big picture:

1.  Mistakes don’t define who you are.

2.  Talk about mistakes and about not giving up. Discuss the topic at dinner. Make sure your child knows to keep trying until he/she succeeds.

3.  Young kids (pre-pubescent) want your acceptance and approval. If you tell your kids it’s okay to make a mistake and make light of it, they will feel better about it. Don’t pressure your child about making mistakes. Kids feel that stress.

4.  Follow your own advice and really accept that it’s okay for you to make mistakes too. The best way to teach them this is to show them – through your own words and actions.

5. Explain to your kids that there is no such thing as perfection and that trying to reach it is an unrealistic expectation and a set-up for failure.

6.  Teach your kids to be resilient. Teach them to laugh at their mistakes, to write down what they have learned from their mistakes, and discuss ways they might be able to do things differently in the future.

Life is a journey and your kids should understand that it’s the bumps in the road that make us the best we can be – we just need the tools and support to get there.


Diane Lang is a wellness counselor and psychotherapist. She is also an author, educator, and speaker. Lang’s focus is “Positive Psychology” and has been interviewed for numerous magazine and newspaper articles. She has been a frequent guest on radio and TV shows including “Fox & Friends” on the Fox News Network. Lang is a monthly contributor for Family Beautiful magazine, a weekly columnist for MommyTalk.com, a regular featured expert on the “Expat Show” broadcasted weekly on the New York ABC affiliate WTBQ-AM. Lang is the author of two books: “Baby Steps: The Path from Motherhood to Career” and “Creating Balance & Finding Happiness.” For more information follow Diane Lang on Facebook here or visit www.dlcounseling.com.

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