Parenting – Kids Don’t Learn From Their Mistakes

Parenting Insights into the Student Mind

Max McNerney Homework
There’s an old saying that babies should come with an owner’s manual, so that we knew what to do and how to handle certain situations. I agree. Some of this “parenting thing” we do comes instinctively, but much of it doesn’t. We tend to think that, since we were kids ourselves once, we don’t need a manual. I don’t know about you, but my memory of what it was like to be a kid has morphed and faded so much that I’m not really sure sometimes what it was like for me to be a kid. Here is one major idea to remember when parenting:

Kids Don’t Learn from Their Mistakes

This seems self-evident, but over and over again we assume that our kids have some basic wisdom about life. They don’t understand how much work it will require to be successful in life. Our kids don’t have the wisdom to think about learning from what worked in the past and applying it in the future. Parenting requires that we remember this.

“I keep telling him to start projects early so he doesn’t have to wait until the last minute, but he doesn’t and I have to bail him out by helping the day before it’s due. Why can’t he just learn to get things done early?”

This is a question I hear quite a bit. Why can’t he learn how to do it easier?

I think a big reason is that our kids haven’t gained wisdom yet.

How do we gain wisdom? Usually by dealing with difficult situations over and over. It is the rare person who can learn a lesson the first time something bad happens. For most of us, it takes a few of the same bad decisions before we “get it.” Our kids are the same. They will not learn from their mistakes—at least not at first.

Let me repeat that: Our kids will not learn from their mistakes–at least not at first. This is important to remember. It’s much more difficult for children and teenagers to generalize about their actions and learn life lessons from them. They sometimes seem to make the same mistake repeatedly. But from their perspective (and limited frame of reference), each mistake is different. Thus, they have difficulty developing generalizations about their behavior. It takes a certain level of maturity and self-confidence to be able to say to ourselves: “Yep, that was my fault, and I’ve made that same mistake before.”

What Should We Do?

a.         Realize that learning from mistakes takes a very long time for many students. It won’t come as quickly as we think it should.

b.         Be patient. When we get frustrated with our kids when they are not “getting it,” they will either just shut down or argue.

c.         Be a Tentative Consultant (see my book for information on being a consultant with your kids)

So try to remember that a big part of parenting is remembering that our kids haven’t acquired wisdom…yet.