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How to Teach Kids to Learn From Their Mistakes

How to Teach Kids to Learn From Their Mistakes

Latasha N. wonders, “How do I stop my child from butting in to my conversations?”

When a child acts rude, makes a mistake, or gets involved in something that’s none of his business, most parents really want to make sure she understands the gravity of the situation, and rightfully so.

Some begin to lecture, to make sure their child knows how bad it is. Others hand down a huge punishment so she’ll never forget what she did. Some parents feel their child’s behavior is a reflection on them, and make decisions about what to do from that place of embarrassment.

Still others are just plain angry, and remain so as a way to punish their child.

Too Upset to Think

I’m not here to tell you how to handle situations with your child. You’re the parent and you know what’s best. But I do want to point out that most children are so upset at being “caught” that they can’t really think.


Really thinking about what happened, what to do to make sure it never happens again, and how to fix it, are what will help ensure that it doesn’t happen again. But how can you achieve that using love, and calm firmness?

Think back to when you were little. Most of us were yelled at, and the yelling caused us to fear or resent our parents. It didn’t cause us to really think about the situation. We would just promise anything we thought our parents wanted to hear so we could get it over with. I didn’t want that situation to unfold with my kids.

Many parents have told me that, when they were little, what did make an impression on them was when their parents said they were disappointed.

Now I’m not advocating that you tell your child you’re disappointed in her. I’m advocating that you change your method to include teaching words. You’ll still make an impression, your child will still learn, but this way it’s done without any residual guilt.

A Loving, Firm, and Effective Response

To help a child really learn from mistakes, he/she needs to be allowed to feel the weight of the consequences of his/her choices and what it will take to fix things.

What if you said, “I’m pretty upset about this. You need to sit here and really think about what happened. When we talk later I want you to tell me 3 things:

  • What you will do differently next time so this doesn’t happen again.
  • How you plan to fix this.
  • And what you think your consequence should be?” (If the parent thinks the situation calls for a consequence.)

“Oh, and by the way, real thinking isn’t something that happens in five minutes. Real thinking can take a whole evening. Based on what you did, I’m guessing you’ll be in here all evening. I’ll check on you in a while to see what you have to tell me.”

This sends the message that you’re disappointed without needing to say it. It tells the child that it’s her responsibility to figure out how to repair the damage she has caused.

It creates a consequence: she has to stay in her room all night, or until you think she has given her actions enough thought. This really can take the place of timeout or being grounded.

And it allows you to remain calm so you can hug and love your child as they figure it all out.

I think that accomplishes just about everything you’d want from your child so she understands the gravity of a situation, don’t you?

Sharon Silver is a parenting educator and the founder of Proactive Parenting. She's also the author of Stop Reacting and Start Responding: 108 Ways to Discipline Consciously and Become the Parent You Want to Be.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

Join The Conversation
MichelleGoodson80955 MichelleGoodson80955 5 years
We can learn the more excellent way~Thanks!
JulieDillon JulieDillon 5 years
I teach my boys that mistakes are made for learning. However, if the mistake is repeated and becomes a pattern. The behavior needs to be changed. If they struggle making the change, then consequences are given which teach them that in real life, you can't take some mistakes back, and you will suffer loss or missed opportunities which can hinder there sucess and happiness in life. My job as a parent is to give them the confidence to try again, and the tools on how to change it. Instead of just "sitting in time out" My oldest has to write down, why I put him in time out, why it was a bad decision, and give an example of a better way to handle the situation in the future. When his time is up we discuss what he wrote, say our apologies if needed and hopefully learn something in the process. My youngest has to verbally communicate with me what my eldest writes before he is excused from the time out chair.
kelliecouser kelliecouser 5 years
like this article x
MarilynAgudera MarilynAgudera 6 years
This is nice. I think I've got to consider this. Thanks.
AmyJimenez73435 AmyJimenez73435 6 years
ElisabethJacobi ElisabethJacobi 6 years
What age are you recommending this for?
DarcyLamond DarcyLamond 6 years
I like the advice. I do think though that the age of the child plays a large role in the effectiveness of this approach.
AnnKlamik AnnKlamik 6 years
Good posting. I question if there's a pat behavior management strategy that works for all ages. I don't agree that young children should be isolated in their rooms all night. Is that for the betterment of the child or the relief of the parent? Some children don't understand what they did wrong - so they are being asked to basically remain isolated until they can figure out just what it is their parent wants them to say. I've never advocated "discovery methods". I'm from the school that believes a surprise strategy (a hug, whispering instead of yelling, grabbing the camera) can have some good results, and keep the child's self image intact. Many times its the adult who has to adjust behavior, so that the child can learn from good modeling. As a teacher, we were always reminded to "be careful what you're teaching - it's not always what you think you are teaching."
MayowaGbolagun MayowaGbolagun 6 years
This is quite interesting. i am going to try it out with my kids 6yrs & 4yrs. thnx
CoMMember13631152583616 CoMMember13631152583616 6 years
It's really great when a parent moves from trying to change the behavior of the child to trying to change their heart. The heart is the "Wellspring of life" and "out of the abundance of the heart, the mouths speaks", so when bad behavior is present, it reveals a much deeper issue. Each and every time a child faces consequences for poor decisions in their behavior, we have to be sure we speak to the heart of the child and use that time to properly guide them.
ValerieSalerno ValerieSalerno 6 years
Thanks for posting this article. I like the idea of encouraging the child to think about how they can solve the problems themselves. I also agree that children should be guided to look at the problem from different points of view. Of course this process takes much more time than dumping a punishment on the kids, but in the long run, it is worth it, as it teaches the children that they can take a proactive attitude when they find themselves in a difficult situation. This process may be too complicated for younger children but I'm sure that the parent can guide them through the process by using simpler words.
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