There are many benefits to letting your child make mistakes. I have previously outlined how children who are permitted to make errors have healthier self-esteem, learn how to trust, become more confident, among others.
Yet, standing back and allowing our children to do things their way, mistakes and failures included, is easier said than done. It’s just like scratching that itch. We know we shouldn’t be doing it, but at times we just can’t stop.
An itch causes us discomfort, and we itch it do make the discomfort go away. Why do we find it so difficult to let our children make mistakes? Here are seven reasons:
1) Fear and anxiety: The great old monster. There are so many scenarios we can possibly fear and be anxious of when it comes to let our children fail. I’m afraid he won’t bounce back. I fear she will resent me. I’m scared it’ll reflect badly on me as a parent.
2) Fallacy of nurture: We might make the mistaken association between nurturing our children and the constant doing stuff for them. We might be fallaciously thinking that constant intervention on their behalf is a form of nurture.
3) Our need for control: We find it hard to let go and allow our children to take some responsibility and control of their life. Control, or the illusion thereof, makes us feel, well, in control. We need this feeling to feel powerful. It’s oh so difficult to let some of it go.
4) Approval of others: This is especially true when our children get compared the other’s children. It can happen at the playground, at a school ceremony, or at a birthday party. If all the other parents in the crowd made the perfect looking science projects for their children, why should I be the only one to allow my child to make his own? How are the other parents going to look at me as a parent?
5) Our need to be useful: Most of us don’t like to sit idly by. We want to be involved. We want to contribute. We want to leave our fingerprints around us. We need it to feel self-worth. When we see our child trying to figure something out, we just need to be useful at the moment.
6) The quest for perfection: Of all the reasons we don’t allow our children to make mistakes, this is perhaps the most debilitating. The quest for raising perfect children is unattainable. Yet, it’s a major reason we often find ourselves jumping in to “rescue” our children. We can’t see them being less than perfect. We have to get involved and polish their rough edges.
7) Our own childhoods: I often speak to friends who say they want their children to have a better childhood than they’ve had. It’s a noble goal to provide for our children as much as we can. But this attitude might also stand in the way of allowing our children to make mistakes and become independent. We should be careful of misinterpreting our children’s struggles with the ones we had as children.
8 ) Impatience: I think we are all guilty of this one. I know I sure am. How many times has your child tried to solve a math problem, tie his show, or finish a bowl of cereal, when there we are doing it for them because it’s faster? Letting your child make mistakes takes patience. It’s in no way the easy way out.
Just as there are many reasons to let your child fail and make mistakes, there are also many reasons we hesitate before doing so. We might be fearful or anxious. We may perhaps be perfectionists. Who knows? Did we maybe have a less than perfect childhood which is now influencing our parenting?
It’s good to know the various reasons underlying our reluctance to let our children make a mistake or two. Knowledge doesn’t make them magically disappear. It doesn’t suddenly give us the courage to accept less than perfection from our children.
But it does give us a better understanding of why we do what we do, so we can at least move in the direction of letting our children learn from their mistakes without our interference.
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