Mistakes: Speed bumps not Roadblocks

If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.
~John Wooden

Part of being an adolescent is making mistakes.  Mistakes help us learn a great deal about ourselves, our friends, and how we handle difficult times.  The greatest gift we can give our kids is the experience of living and learning from big, hairy, audacious, mistakes.  Just for fun let’s categorize some common mistakes and possible outcomes.  While this is not an exhaustive list of adolescent gaffes, it represents the ones we often see at school.

Mistake 1: Didn’t do homework/didn’t study for test

  • Category: Academic
  • Consequence: May receive a poor grade and/or have to redo the assignment or retake the test.
  • Benefit/Lesson: There are natural consequences to not planning or handling one’s responsibilities.
  • Parent Response: “I’m sorry that you chose not to do that assignment.  Maybe you could talk to your teacher and come up with a plan to make it up.”

Mistake 2: Told a friend’s secret/started a rumor

  • Category: Social
  • Consequence: Possible loss of friendship
  • Benefit/Lesson: Relationships are fragile and lost trust can result in a lost friendship.  One can also learn that by apologizing and changing behavior a friendship can be saved.
  • Parent Response: “The only way to repair a fractured relationship is through actions, not words.  You need to show your friend that you’re sorry and change your behavior, so this doesn’t happen again.  It will take some time.”

Mistake 3: Posted something mean online

  • Category: Social
  • Consequence: Loss of friendship/school intervention
  • Benefit/Lesson: Negative or nasty posts have a wide reaching impact and often affect the poster more than the person they posted about.
  • Parent Response: “I know you know that posting mean things online is inappropriate.  Having a (insert name of social network) is a privilege that comes with maturity.  Based on your actions, you may not be ready to have an account.”

Mistake 4: Violated a disciplinary rule at school

  • Category: Social/Academic
  • Consequence: Detention/suspension
  • Benefit/Lesson: Is the risk you took worth the consequences you are now facing?  There is a benefit in being honest and coming clean when you make a mistake.
  • Parent Response: “Wow, this is really uncharacteristic behavior for you.  What was your motivation behind that decision?  What do you think you could’ve done differently?  Facing the music with integrity will help you to move from a child to an adult.”

The fact of the matter is that all of these mistakes are ones that kids can rebound from.  It is our hope that these mistakes serve as learning experiences, and our kids come out the other end of their choice better people.  I have worked with thousands of kids, and they ALL make mistakes.  The true value of the mistake is how you learn from it and how it makes you a better person.

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