Mistakes are good

Published by Lori Pickert on November 12, 2008 at 12:57 PM

It is so easy to accidentally step on our children’s toes, to get in their way when they are learning.

We want to raise children who are creative thinkers and dynamic problem-solvers, yet when they are about to try something that won’t work, we immediately say “that won’t work”.

Letting them try and fail allows them to experience a small failure and handle their disappointment, overcome it, try something else, persevere, maybe try a third and a fourth time, and eventually experience authentic self-earned success. You can shorten that experience (or even eliminate it), but you’ll be taking away learning — taking away their chance to become truly resilient.

Are we so wrapped up in our own egos that we can’t allow our children to fail, even a little bit, even just momentarily? Do we feel like we’re better teachers if we make sure everything they do looks “right” from the beginning?

Learning to handle small failures, learning how to try again and not give up — these are lessons that they can use later in life, with bigger problems.

Also, when you don’t immediately redirect to the answer that you think is best, your children will sometimes surprise you. Their solution will work. Maybe it’s unorthodox, maybe you are sure it won’t last, maybe you “know” you have a better solution. But if your child is satisfied, let it be. Again, perhaps it will fail eventually. Then they will have to deal with it.

We want teenagers to make good decisions — about very important issues. But how much experience have they had making any decisions at all?

Smoothing your child’s way when they are small may actually make things harder for them when they are older.

Let them exercise their decision-making now. Let them learn to handle disappointment and frustration now.

What better preparation for life could we give them?


Part 2: Mistakes are Valuable



Comment by Juli on November 12, 2008 at 02:38 PM

Thank-you for that. I really need to let my children make mistakes and I didn't realize it before now. I'm one to not let them do things because of messes! I'll have to get over that one.

P.S. I went and voted for you. I hope you win!

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 12, 2008 at 02:51 PM

lol, juli, you’re welcome -- and yes, we’d better discuss the positive side of messes on another day! ;^)

thank you for voting -- i’m hoping it exposes a lot of new people to new ideas about helping children learn. :^)

Comment by allie on November 12, 2008 at 03:22 PM

Something we all need to remember -- it's ok to make mistakes. Thanks, Lori!

Comment by Sarah Jackson on November 12, 2008 at 03:52 PM

So so true, as always. We've always practiced this - even when it was REALLY hard to let the oldest one fail, we still did. And now, she knows how to make good choices and has learned that mistakes are not the end of the world. We tell our kids that we don't learn if we do it right all the time, and that some of the greatest inventions and discoveries were the result of mistakes.

Yay mistakes!

Comment by gonzomama on November 12, 2008 at 07:37 PM

what a great reminder.
i may need to print this and just hang it up on the fridge so i am reminded often.

Comment by estea on November 12, 2008 at 08:07 PM

1. am i the only one who is afraid of this photo?

2. as a musician, i fear mistakes. mistakes are the ENEMY :) so i sometimes struggle to practice your advice, and am w a l k i n g a w a y when necessary. i am retraining myself to not frown upon their risk taking, because when i do, as you are gently teaching us, out goes all the enthusiasm and energy. *poof*

3. see how i'm unafraid to admit my hsing mistakes? i so deserve taco bell.

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 12, 2008 at 09:16 PM

thank you, allie, sarah, and gonzomama! :^)


1 - lol. those are pieces of sculpture we fired in our pit kiln. they aren’t really mistakes .. but .. still thought it looked good! ;^)

2 - here’s my analogy of the day -- use their interest to propel the project (and their learning), like the wind propels a sailboat -- if you manhandle the steering wheel, you may just bob there. sullenly. ;^)

(turn the boat the wrong way .. *poof* .. no wind ;^)

3 - you deserve extra sour cream. go to the head of the class.

Comment by Lucia on November 12, 2008 at 09:44 PM

Lori, congratulations on the nomination! I just voted for you. I always learn so much from your posts...so thoughtful, meaty, full of inspiration and concrete details...thank you. I'll be sending you an e-mail soon. As you saw, we are moving to Italy next summer and I am really hoping we can find a Reggio school for our kids or perhaps by then I will be ready to take the plunge and perhaps attempt full time homeschooling. Lucia

Comment by Lucia on November 12, 2008 at 10:17 PM

And I wanted to add on to my previous comment...thank you especially for this post. I needed to read these words today. It was a good reminder to me of my own childhood. Growing up with parents who were both artists, I regularly watched them struggle, attempt new things, discard others, and work until they had finished a piece to their satisfaction. In addition to letting our own children make mistakes, I think it is also good for us as parents to make mistakes and to acknowledge them. It can be a very powerful experience. And you are so right, Lori. I do want to raise my children to be creative thinkers...creative thinkers who embrace the whole process not just the final product. I want to be this way, too, but it isn't always easy to embrace those mistakes. So thank you for the reminder.

Comment by simply on November 12, 2008 at 10:37 PM

I think it is THE hardest thing to do as a home school mom...let my children fail at something...and let them LEARN in the process.

we say at our house...everyone is a 10...we need to just find out what your ar a 10 in :o)


Comment by Lori Pickert on November 12, 2008 at 11:16 PM

lucia, thank you for your beautiful comment. when i started writing about mistakes this morning, i ended up with (as usual) four posts’s worth of ideas. :^P i was thinking and writing about that same thing -- acknowledging our own mistakes to them is so powerful! thank you!

and *congratulations* again on your move to italy -- how exciting. i think (*think*) that the only place in italy that has reggio schools is .. reggio emilia. it is not, as far as i know, an approach that is everywhere. (although i seem to remember there are similar schools in at least one nearby town...?) let me know how it goes! i am excited for you!

simply - it *is* hard! so we need to remind each other to let it happen, right? :^)

Comment by Home School Dawn on November 13, 2008 at 03:20 AM

Great post! I agree 100%. Found you through the hs blog awards and glad I did. It's good to find a like-minded homeschooler. Congrats on the nom, and you have my vote!

Comment by Cristina on November 13, 2008 at 03:32 AM

Congratulations on your nomination! I've only started reading your blog and I can see why you were nominated for this category. You've made some excellent points here. I've actually tried to make my kids part of the decision making process when it comes to choosing homeschooling. It was a great moment for me a few years ago when my oldest asked how she could go to college without a high school diploma, since she wanted to homeschool through high school.

It is hard to control the urge to tell them something won't work when it is obvious to me. Luckily, my youngest seems immune to my nay saying. ;o)

Peace and Laughter!

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 13, 2008 at 03:33 AM

thank you, dawn! :^D)

and welcome to camp creek -- if you need me to get you a lawn chair and a lemonade, just let me know. ;^)

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 13, 2008 at 03:45 AM

cristina, thank you! i love that. my son (who turns 12 in a few weeks) recently told us he wants to homeschool college as well. :^)

Comment by kosenrufu mama on November 13, 2008 at 08:29 AM

this is a positive view! i agree with you!!!

Comment by Thimblelina on November 13, 2008 at 08:53 AM

Thank you for reminding me I must be more mindful of this, you are so right.

I voted for you on the homeschool thing and I see you are in the lead with 27% of the votes - well done for such an informative blog

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 13, 2008 at 02:47 PM

thank you,kosenrufu mama! :^)

thank you, thimbelina, and thank you for your vote! ;^)

Post new comment