Teach Kids to Learn from Mistakes

My 10 year old daughter Ash has set a goal to sell homemade lip balm and make a profit from it. She tried making several batches before, but it always turned out lumpy. She recently made a batch that was smooth and gave it to her teachers for their end of year gifts! So this is how you help a child (or adult!) to learn:

  1. Create a safe environment where it’s ok to make mistakes. If Ash didn't have permission to make mistakes, she wouldn’t have been able to learn from them and improve the next time around. When a child makes a mistake, replace yelling and put downs with, ‘It’s ok to make a mistake. That’s how we learn. Good job for having a go! Let’s see what can be tweaked to improve it for next time.'

  2. Let them follow their passions. Ash is passionate about having her own natural lip balm business. The thought of making dollars from the nannas at the local market excites her! This motivates her to want to keep on trying. She will actually be learning a lot through this experience and she won’t even notice because it’s fun!

  3. Allow them to experience natural consequences. Although Ash successfully made her lip balm, there was beeswax everywhere; on the bench, the floor, the stove, in bowls, pots and utensils. Beeswax can only be cleaned by melting it with boiling water. It’s ok that she made a mess, however, she must clean the dishes because she is the one who used them. She will remember this unpleasant cleaning experience and use as few dishes as possible next time. She is learning how to be efficient. If I clean it up for her, I’d actually be robbing her of the learning process.

  4. Tell them about how you have learned from mistakes. My kids love my lasagne that I make on special occasions! I make it with homemade sheets, a meat sauce recipe from one book and a white sauce recipe from another book. I tell them that when I first made lasagne it was from a kid’s cookbook, and it wasn’t good. I was determined so I kept trying! I made it 10 times and tried different recipes until I perfected it. I remind them the way we get good at things is by doing them over and over again. Anyone can be good at anything!

  5. Be kind to yourself when you make a mistake. Kids are watching and listening all the time. If you make a mistake and say, ‘I’m an idiot, I’m a failure, I’m so stupid,’ you are actually teaching your kids that when they make a mistake that they must be an idiot or a failure too! Instead, laugh at yourself and say things like, ‘Oops I made a boo-boo! That’s ok because I’ll know that I need to pay attention to detail and write the correct name in someone’s wedding card for next time!’ This may or may not have happened to me recently! Ha! ;)

Anyone could sit in a corner perfectly without taking a risk or making a mistake. But there is something impressive about someone having a go and following their dreams! It takes courage to step out and making mistakes is a part of it. Help your child to have a growth mindset.

If they want to make turquoise coloured Turkish delight using a candy thermometer, let them! Let them add all the food colouring to the playdough so they learn it won’t turn into a rainbow, it will turn brown! Let them experiment, experience, be kids,  get messy, play, and make mistakes because this is how kids learn! Don't criticise them, or freak out about mess, instead encourage and praise them! One day your kids will move out and you'll have a perfectly clean house and you'll miss them! Are your kids free to make mistakes and learn from them?