Skip to content

A proper error culture

    The word “mistake” always has a negative connotation, but there are also “good” mistakes that are important for lasting learning. We should be more aware of this fact, and the right way to deal with a mistake is absolutely crucial. We should start to see mistakes not as a stupidity, but as an opportunity for further development and learning. Because in this way we often realise how something just doesn’t work and how we can perhaps do it better or differently. This is exactly how children develop their skills. However, parents prevent this if they teach them that mistakes are not allowed. So mistakes should never go unused. In the classroom, too much is still taught according to the pattern of telling children this is right, that is wrong, there is exactly one solution. But that is usually not the case. We give them more to take with them when we say: Look, here is a problem, you can now develop solutions. At school, too, we should create more of a forum for producing ideas, defending them and also being able to give up arguments if they are wrong.

    Adults tend to become “know-it-alls” quickly due to their large head start in lived experience. This often starts when our children make their first attempts at playing. “Look, the ball has to go in the round hole, the dice in the square hole!” Later it continues. Something doesn’t work out for the child at the first attempt, he is frustrated. As parents, we sometimes intervene hastily so that the child can make progress. But in reality, we are denying him an important experience. That it sometimes takes several attempts before something works and that the child is perfectly capable of finding the solution to a problem on its own, even if it may take longer. Therefore, it is important that we take a step back and allow the child to have its own experiences, including mistakes and frustration. Once they have found out for themselves how something works, the joy is even greater, and the learning effect is even greater.

    By letting our children have their own experiences, they acquire important skills. Finding their own ways through mistakes and working out solutions are skills that will always benefit them later in life. In addition, learning with the self-discovery effect strengthens the personality. This feeling of being allowed to dare to do something without constantly being led astray by small and tiny corrections is very valuable for children. It is certainly also a reason why they love the stories of adventurers and explorers so much – because they dare to follow their instinctive curiosity, even if a lot can go wrong in the process. And often their own mistake is a helper. Without it, they often wouldn’t have made any progress at all. Then, in the end, their own sense of discovery, the foundation of lifelong learning, triumphs.

    Not only children mature, mothers and fathers also have to develop further: In terms of how much they trust their children. Early on, we should start to let go more and more in certain respects. If we protect our children too much from any risk, the children pay a price. Overall, we trust children and young people too little, but we should give them increasing responsibility as they get older. In the process, they will make mistakes and can learn from them.

    Puberty in particular is a time when young people are quick to make decisions that may not be particularly well thought out. But that is part of life, after all, we were all at that particular age once. The typical recklessness at this time often makes parents not trust their children with so much sense of responsibility. But it is also a mistake to withhold responsibility from young people who would already be ready to take it on. They deserve this chance to mature. All in all, we give children and young people too little credit. We should give them increasing responsibility as they get older.

    We must learn to put the knowledge advantage that we have as adults with more life experience behind children who are just learning and discovering, and accept that they make “good” and “bad” mistakes and thus gain experience. There are many teachers who already make their lessons “error friendly” and let their students try more on their own. They embrace mistakes and ask themselves if there is an idea of their own in them. We parents can do the same by being mindful of error. That takes courage, because even a “wrong” climbing technique on the playground or clumsy trial and error on the bike are part of it – the whole person always learns. But it is worth it. Because the future needs courageous thinkers who think outside the box, and our children need a genuine joy in learning.

    Translated with DeepL