Many parents want the same thing for their child: success. But there are many ways to define success: health, happiness, and independence. And how do we help our kids get there? Why is it that some children grow up and are independent, while others struggle? There is, of course, no simple answer to this extremely complicated issue but there is one simple idea that parents can try.
Let your child make mistakes.
Then – allow those mistakes to have natural consequences that will help them learn – each and every time.
Mistakes in the preschool years are usually of small consequence such as spilled milk or hurting a friends’ feelings. As children grow the mistakes become larger as do the complex issues that arise. Eventually the child who has been allowed to make mistakes throughout his lifetime, and developed skills to problem solve through these events, will be better prepared.
Spilled Milk: It happens almost daily with young children. When parents do everything for their children, we take away the opportunity for them to learn to do it themselves.
Independence begins in small ways and slowly grows – just like a seed in the ground.
Example: A spill happens, the child looks up at parent, the parent calmly says: “What should you do?” The child remembers to go and get a towel and clean up mess. (Have a bucket or container for clean towels and another one for the dirty – available in your home.)
Lessons learned: 1) problem solving, 2) responsibility and 3) independence.
Broken/ lost toys: If your child treats their toys roughly or does not take care of them by putting them away and something gets broken, do they learn a lesson if we buy them a replacement immediately?
Example: One year a child at our preschool was being too rough with a material and it was damaged. At pick-up time the teacher quietly explained to the parent – with the child included in the discussion – what had happened. On the drive home the parent and child discussed what should be done and the child helped come up with a solution. This 4 year- old agreed to do some extra chores to help pay for a replacement for this broken classroom material. Weeks later the child brought the replacement into his teacher.
Lesson Learned: Natural consequences and taking responsibility for your actions.
Disappointment: When children do not get their way they may pout and be extremely disappointed. If parents give in to this behavior we create children who learn quickly that pouting and temper tantrums are effective ways to get what they want.
Examples of this scenario can be found at any local toy store. J
Lesson learned: It is a parent’s responsibility to teach children about disappointment. They will experience this at almost every phase of life, learning resilience is helpful – one of the most valuable life skills imaginable!
Admitting when you are wrong. Parents can begin to teach this by practicing themselves. “I made a mistake and didn’t do what I said I would do – which was wrong.” Or simply stating to your child: “I was wrong and I should not have done that.”
If your child makes a mistake and admits it, acknowledge that their action was wrong but that you appreciate them telling the truth about their actions. This is a great opportunity for a discussion about doing the right thing and the importance of honesty!
Learning to take responsibility when the offense is small helps develop a pattern of responsibility and strong character as they grow.
Lesson learned: Taking responsibility for your actions.
How do we raise successful children? There is so much more than simply teaching them to read and write.
Allowing children to make mistakes at every age – and learn from them – is one of the best lessons a parent can provide.