When Kids Make Mistakes

Making mistakes is a natural, albeit frustrating part of learning and teaching our children how to deal with making mistakes can set them up for success later on in life. When our children make mistakes it may not seem like a big deal to us; having their tower of blocks fall, not being able to color in the lines, spilling something or when they just can’t figure out how to do something. However, to our kids these “little” mistakes feel very real are accompanied by kids’ big emotions.


How to support children when they make mistakes

Change how you react

If your child makes a mistake it’s important to try to not have a negative reactions, especially if it is truly a mistake. We want our children to be able to come to us when they make mistakes not hide from us fearing our reactions.


Encourage them to try to and figure out what went wrong

Sometimes not helping them is actually helping them; having our children struggle to do something can be great at reinforcing learning. For example, when a baby is learning to walk, they’ll probably get frustrated when they can’t stand for long periods of time or be able to coordinate their feet. Parents can encourage their baby to walk by holding their hands or using walking toys, but ultimately they have to be the one’s to figure it out.

When kids are older you can offer them hints to help them figure it out on their own without giving them the answer. Using encouraging words can boost their self-confidence.


Break down tasks

Break down the overall goal into smaller, more manageable tasks to make it easier for your child to get to their goal, while also providing them with a sense of accomplishment when they complete the smaller task.


Make it a game

Challenge your little one to see who can complete the task first, sometimes when children are competing against someone else it can reduce their frustrations with themselves.


Model how you handle your mistakes for your children

We make mistakes too and it’s important that we handle them just as we would want our children to handle them. If we spill something, or forget to pick up milk at the store; we could get mad and curse ourselves out or we could acknowledge and accept the mistake and make a plan to remedy it.


Mistakes are a great way for our children to learn; try to resist the urge to come to their rescue when they ask for help. Sometimes, as parents it hurts us to watch out children fail, however we won’t always be there to help them. It’s important for children to learn how to overcome challenges themselves (within reason). Use your best judgement when coming to your child’s rescue; if you have a toddler who is learning how to use the bathroom and they have an accident or stuff too much toilet paper down the toilet –this may be a good time to help them directly while narrating what you are doing. However, if you have a five year old and they’re getting frustrated when they can’t seem to get a drawing they’re doing just right– then words of encouragement may be a better fit.