One of the hardest things about being a parent, is letting your child make their own mistakes. It can seem counterintuitive to allow them to make a mistake- after all, we are hard wired to protect our offspring and keep them safe and happy.
However, taking a step back and allowing children to make their own mistakes (as long as there is no proper physical danger) is in my opinion, incredibly important for a child’s development. It teaches them skills that they will need and use for the rest of their lives.
That’s why I was delighted to hear of My Strawberry Monkey, a website and series of children’s picture books by Allan Thompson, who’s first two books have the moral of learning from mistakes and friendship.
So why is it so important for children to make mistakes?
Making mistakes develops resilience. Everyone makes mistakes, no matter how old they are and we need to allow children to make their own mistakes and learn the consequences of them. Making mistakes provides children with an opportunity to learn to never give up. It also teaches them how to regulate their own emotions such as frustration and anger.
For small children, a mistake could be as simple as putting their shoes on the wrong feet. This mistake might upset them or maybe make them cross. But if they then put their shoes on the correct feet by themselves, they have not only learnt how to put their shoes on but a whole range of skills.
They’ve learnt not to give up, how to deal with their own emotions and to be proud and confident in what they can achieve! Putting shoes on the wrong feet may sound like a trivial mistake to us, but the skills they learn from it will be used again as adults when dealing with bigger mistakes.
Making mistakes also helps children to learn to keep themselves safe. Obviously, it’s important to make sure that they are always safe and in no danger, but by making some smaller mistakes children are learning their own limitations. This might be how to safely climb the steps up to the slide at the park or even how to ride a scooter!
Children are also more forgiving of others who make mistakes, if they have experienced making mistakes themselves. It can help to foster their empathy and compassion towards others; helping children to form friendships.
How can you help your child to learn from their mistakes?
- Sufficient Freedom to (Safely) Make Mistakes– Children need to have enough space to try things out themselves. As long as they are in no danger, simple things such as holding back at the park when they go up the steps to the slide, or letting them try to make friends themselves at playgroups, enables them to make their own mistakes and learn from them.
- Reading Relevant Books – Anyone who reads this blog regularly will know how important I think books are. In fact they are my ‘go to’ tool for supporting children with difficult situations. My Strawberry Monkey‘s books are fantastic examples of books that can help children to understand why its OK to make mistakes and how to learn from the consequences. For example Allan Thompson’s first book Strawberry Monkey Loves the Sun tells the story of the lovable, clumsy monkey who forgets to put on suncream and gets sunburnt as a result. In the second book in the series Stop Eating! Strawberry Monkey Strawberry Monkey makes the mistake of eating too much food, and faces the consequences of this!
- Model Mistake Making! Show children that we make mistakes too- children need to know that we say the wrong things, trip over and forget things too! Importantly they need to see that we deal with these in a positive way- we learn from our mistakes and we take responsibility.
- Talk Talking to children openly about a mistake you’ve just made or that they have made (in a supportive manner) helps build the dialogue and illustrates to them that its good to talk about problems. It helps children to think through what happened, how they could have done it differently and what they have learnt.
- Learn Together– Young children have so much to learn to prepare them for school and then at school itself. With all this learning it’s no wonder that they make lots of mistakes. To help build their confidence, try completing learning activities together. My Strawberry Monkey’s website has some fantastic learning activities to try. By completing them together you are on hand to support them when they make mistakes.
Find out more about My Stawberry Monkey here.
Want to buy them? Click on the pictures below to be re-directed to Amazon.
The second book in the series Stop Eating! Strawberry Monkey is currently in digital form only but will be available in paper back soon!
Do you think its important to let children make mistakes? We’d love to know what you think, please write in the comments below!