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The Art of Letting Your Children Make Mistakes

Updated on August 15, 2017
Farawaytree profile image

As both a mother and stepmother, Michelle explores the dynamics of modern parenting and step-parenting.

The Beginning Of The End

There are times when you just have to let go.

All the years of coddling, reminding, reassuring, checking, remembering, nagging, and stress. This endless supply of support is what parents usually feel they are required to do as their child grows from infancy toward the teen years and even beyond.

Some children are better at remembering to take care of themselves than others and some will always seem to need several reminders to put homework in the backpack, to get going on that project, or to clean up after themselves.

Is it the fault of the parent(s) that some children are just not as conscientious or as resourceful as others? Possibly, but there could be many other factors at play.

The point of this is not to place blame, but to go forward with some inspirational ideas to help parents who are suffering from the dilemma of wanting to let their children explore the world, yet are also terrified to let go.

Many parents worry that if they relinquish some control, their absent-minded child or children may get lost, confused, hurt, or worse. In other words, many parents fear if they let their children make their own decisions, they will get a taste of the world that is waiting for them, and it may not be pleasant at times.

The truth is there is that there is no trick to letting go other than just doing it. It's kind of like sky-diving. Terrifying and exhilarating. That's why letting go is an art. You get better at it as you do it more.

Road Map to Life?
Road Map to Life? | Source

Remember When Ignorance was Bliss?

A good portion of us parents have certainly been around in the world. We've traveled, worked different types of jobs, and many of us have gone through serious life-altering experiences.

Most of us have many lessons under our belt in order to teach our children the wisdom they need. The only problem with that is, those are not our children's experiences, they are ours.

Our children are going to have their senses filled with massive amounts of joy and enormous feelings of heartache, just as we did. But on their own terms. That's the beauty of life. Don't let them miss out because you can't or won't let go a little bit.

Remember when we were children, and we had fears about the dark, or about strange noises, but had no fear about jumping off the swings or climbing up high places? That is a gift of nature that us parents need to remember.

Our children have experiences waiting for them that are not going to be the same for them as they were for us. There is no way to truly teach your child how to deal with any given situation solely by handing down our lessons learned. These lessons have to be taught to our children by the world in which they go out into.

Remember when we were children, and we had fears about the dark, or about strange noises, but had no fear about jumping off the swings or climbing up high places? That is a gift of nature that us parents need to remember.

Of course, such precautions as "stranger danger" or basic safety should always be kept in mind, but that fearlessness and desire to be free that was experienced as children is something we will never experience again in this lifetime. As parents, we need to remember what that feels like and trust that nature designed our children to be that way for a reason. So they can learn.

You can't shield them from everything
You can't shield them from everything | Source

When Do You Let Go?

It's hard to say what age you should really start lengthening the leash. For some parents, it may be age 10, and for others, maybe 16. You can start out small. Letting your children forget something that you always remind them about and allow them to suffer the consequences. This could be anything from a jacket to homework.

If you constantly remind your children of everything, they are never going to make it a priority in their flow of thoughts to remember. If your children forget to do their homework over the weekend and you know it has to be done - let it go. Come Monday morning they will face the music accordingly at school.

The thing with life is that, rarely, are there second chances for anything. You don't want your children to grow up, get a job, and expect their boss to constantly remind them to do their work or to meet their deadlines. Unfortunately, there are many people like this in the workplace who expect to be prompted to do their jobs.

Teaching your children that they are responsible for themselves is the most beneficial gift you can give them for the future. Most of the time, it's not going to hurt them very much, but it will hurt you, as a parent, to watch them live and learn by the consequences of their actions. Isn't that life?

If we decide to start teaching our children at a younger age that no one else is to blame for their actions but themselves, then perhaps we would have more accountability in our society as a whole.

No manager or boss is going to sit there and threaten you five or six times to do what they asked before they just decide to replace you with someone who can take some initiative. It's just not realistic.

Survival of The Most Accountable

If you can arm your children with the experience of dealing with consequences, you will be saving them years of shock and confusion in their lives after they leave the nest. There are not that many people out there willing to give a handful of warnings before they dish out consequences. If you're told to do something once in the real world, such as at a job, then you need to be prepared to do it.

No manager or boss is going to sit there and threaten you five or six times to do what they asked before they just decide to replace you with someone who can take some initiative. It's just not realistic.

Start holding your children accountable before they decide they don't need to be
Start holding your children accountable before they decide they don't need to be | Source

If you are always giving your children five or six chances to remember or do something, you are putting them at a dangerous disadvantage. Have you ever worked with people like this? Who just sit and wait to be reminded and told what to do instead of just doing it? It's quite distracting and tedious.

Just start out small with your children. If they decide that they don't need to study for a test because they know everything already, then okay. Don't nag them about it. It could be that they do know the information, or it could be that they're just too lazy to do it.

Either way, if they're old enough to have tests at school, then most likely they are old enough to learn how it feels when they fail that test for not studying.Time will tell. If they fail the test, they will know why, and they won't have anyone else to blame. It's not your fault for not reminding them.

Some Words of Comfort

As a parent, you feel responsible for your children. You want to protect them. You want to shield them from pain.That said, it will not hurt your children by letting them deal with the sometimes unpleasant consequences of their actions. They will grow from it, and they will be better for it.

As parents, we already know the hurt they might feel from making a mistake because we've been there, but our children deserve the opportunity to explore all kinds of emotions, good or bad.

"Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands" - Anne Frank

The art of letting your children make their own mistakes is a craft that will get better over time. Choosing when to allow them to go for it and when to stop them takes practice.

There are still going to be dangers that you'll have to protect them from as they are children. But when it comes to letting them make their own choices, you'll see the confidence and the wisdom they start to gain from it.

Once you realize that your children are actually capable of making their own decisions, and muddling through the consequences themselves, you will see your children in a different light. They will think more, they will become more cautious on their own, without you nagging them, and they will feel the satisfaction that comes with feeling capable of making their own decisions.

It's tough to let your child exercise their right to exist and fall down many, many times. But is this not why your children are here? To live, experience, laugh, cry, and learn how to survive in this world?

Whether you do your best to shelter them from "the real world" or you let them practice making their own mistakes, the whole big, complicated world out there is still going to be waiting for them.

So start the project of slowly letting go and letting your children experience some accountability in life. See what happens for you and your children.


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    • Farawaytree profile image

      Michelle Zunter 21 months ago from California

      Thanks for your comment! I will have to check out your book! Nice title ;)

    • melanie rothschil profile image

      melanie rothschild 21 months ago from los angeles, california

      There's a lot of nuance around the idea of mistakes. Certainly there are mistakes we need to avoid at all costs. Yes, mistakes are essential to creativity. Evolution is a process of mistakes (mutations) and corrections leading to new and often profoundly useful discoveries. (The opposable thumb at one time was a mistake.) Learning to understand when a mistake might be presenting a new perspective /possibility and, when a mistake may have catastrophic results, is an important skill to nurture. If we insist on avoiding mistakes at all times, we're expecting perfection and that is simply not realistic ... for ourselves or others.

      Melanie Rothschild, author, "The Art of Mistakes" (North Light Books,2014)

    • Happy Moment profile image

      James 23 months ago from The Eastern Bypass

      It is a parental responsibility to guide your children and show them direction. You may allow them do everything they want but will the world, the best teacher allow them to do everything they feel like? Teach them to follow instructions.