Annie Fox's Blog...

Thoughts about teens, tweens, parenting and this adventure of living on Earth in the 21st century.

Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

Parenting Question: Why is it good for kids to make mistakes?

July 20, 2015

I give up!!!!

I give up!!!!

Part 6 of my Parenting Q&A series brings a question about kids and mistakes. While it’s natural for parents to be on the look-out for our children’s missteps, how we respond can have a huge impact on a child’s developing autonomy and her view of a problem vs. a challenge.

When my daughter tries something and things don’t turn out the way she envisioned, she gets upset and gives up. We hear a lot these days about the importance of kids developing persistence and GRIT. What can I do to help her learn from mistakes and try again?

We’re all human and we all make mistakes. At least that’s what we say. But in some families children have learned it’s not safe to make mistakes because parents tease or shame.  If a child repeatedly makes the same mistake parents may get frustrated and say, “You know better than that!” But if children actually knew better they would do better. Right? The fact that a child makes a mistake should not be cause for a parent to jump down the kid’s throat. That kind of reaction will only teach children that mistakes should be avoided!

Here’s the truth about mistakes: They are amazing opportunities to learn. Think about the word mistake … it’s a moment when learning has not yet taken hold. When the learning takes, then we don’t make that mistake again.

Parents might gain insight into their attitudes about mistake by looking back to their own childhood and how their parents responded to mistakes. Maybe you got yelled at or punished. Hopefully, you did not get hit, slapped or spanked, but maybe you did. If you experienced that kind of parental response, then you learned that mistakes must be avoided at all costs. But wait a minute! What kind of lesson is that? The first time we try anything we are going to fail. It would be a lucky fluke if we got it right, first time out of the gate.

How about we turn this “Avoid mistakes” mantra on its head? What if we give kids the realistic expectation that they will fail and they’ll learn something useful from every failure? What if we give them permission to fail and try again?  When parents encourage their children’s to make mistakes, we teach them about persistence, GRIT and determination. They will learn to pick themselves up and evaluate what just happened. They will learn to modify their response so that their next attempt may result in a different outcome.  That’s how you raise successful children who are fearless in facing obstacles.

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It’s Not Easy Being Teen

March 30, 2015

Yes, I am!

Yes, I am!

I answer lots of email from tweens and teens. From time to time I share letters here to gently remind parents, teachers, coaches, and counselors what it’s like to be a teenager. With that in mind, you’ll be better at helping the kids in your life. Of course, there isn’t one “right” way to ease a young person through an emotionally confusing time. I offer my advice to them (and to you), as one of the possible ways to proceed. You might use it as a suggestion if you ever find yourself in a position to mentor a child (your own or someone else’s).

Teen: I’m a 14 year old ignorant child who has a problem.(Obviously) I’ve been feeling like my life isn’t going great and that I’m already wasting it. Before you say “Oh, you’re only 14. Don’t worry about that! You have so much time” I just want to say I’ve seen plenty of kids do something with their lives at my age. I’m honestly scared to dream big. I’ve been doing theater for nearly 5 years and I’ve sometimes done public performances and feel like I can take it somewhere. I’m just not supported for it. No matter what my ambitions are my mom ignores it, or no one seems to take me seriously. I wanna follow my dream but I feel like my life doesn’t call for it. It makes me depressed and even now, writing this, there’s tears in my eyes because I feel so doubtful. I get jealous of people my age doing great things and I feel I’m nothing compared to them. I don’t even know were to start to make anything happen. What should I do?

Annie: Of course, it helps, if you are supported in your dreams by parents and other family members. I won’t lie to you and say that it doesn’t matter. But just because you don’t get support, doesn’t mean you can’t achieve your dreams, whatever they are. You love theatre. That’s awesome. (Many 14 year olds haven’t a clue what they are interested in. So you are already ahead of those kids!) Ultimately, if you want something in life, you are the one who must figure out how to make it happen. So let me ask you this: What is in the way of your doing more theatre and getting better and better at it? What is your biggest obstacle? (HINT: The answer is not “Lack of support from my mom.”) Think about it and write back. We’ll talk some more.

Teen: Hey, thank you for taking the time to reply 🙂 Appreciate it. I guess what’s been stopping me is usually when I think about my future and what I can do, I can’t help but feel like nothing good is going to come out of the future and that I might not even be alive honestly. I feel limited, which I know I am, but when I see some girls at my school presue things such as modeling or acting or art-related, the first thing that comes to me is “My life doesn’t call for it.” Well not now, obviously, but I was thinking later in the future. I know it’s negative, but if I’m not very lucid and realistic with my life I won’t know what to do later if or when I experience disappointment. I’m a little scared for that. So it’s myself that’s been holding back.

Annie: Yes. It’s you, who’s been holding you back. 50 points for that right answer. Just to let you know, “the future” doesn’t exist. We create our path in life right here… in the present moment… and in the next moment… and the next. It’s all about the choices we make. The choice to have a positive vs a negative attitude is a key factor in success. Comparing yourself to others only works if it inspires you to do your best. Comparing yourself to others with an attitude of “They’re so much better than me, why should I even bother?” is unhelpful. So… quit sabotaging yourself and get on your own team! Yes, there will be set-backs and disappointments along the way. That’s to be expected, not feared. Think about it this way, for each disappointment, there will be something useful for you to take and move forward with. You can make the life you want. A positive attitude, hard work, and belief in yourself are the keys.

Teen: I know this is late but thank you so much 🙂

Annie: Sounds like you found my advice helpful. I’m glad! Be well, my friend.


 

Sometimes the best support we can give teens is to listen as they share their self-doubts, let them know we believe in them, and assure them they have what it takes to succeed.

Filed under: Parenting — Tags: , , , , , , — Annie @ 7:54 pm
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