Educational researcher Gerd Gigerenzer believes that children should be allowed to make mistakes, because mistakes often have something good about them. The word “mistake” always has something negative attached to it, but there are also “good” mistakes that are important for lasting learning. We should be more aware of this fact,
The right way to deal with a mistake is crucial, because we should not see mistakes as a stupidity, but as an opportunity for further development and learning. Because in this way we often realize 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 and teachers often prevent this when we teach them that mistakes should not be made. So mistakes should never go unused. Teachers still teach too much according to the scheme 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’s a problem, you can develop solutions now. At school, too, we should create more of a forum for producing ideas, defending them and also giving up arguments when they are wrong.
Adults tend to quickly become “know-it-alls” due to our large head start in lived experience. But in truth, we are denying children an important experience. That it sometimes takes several attempts before something succeeds and that a child is perfectly capable of coming up with the solution to a problem on its own, even if it may take longer. It is therefore important for parents to take a step back and allow the child to have its own experiences, including mistakes and frustration. If the child then finds out for itself how something works, the joy is all the greater, and the learning effect 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.
This feeling of being allowed to dare to do something, without being constantly discouraged from their own path by small and tiny corrections, is very valuable for children. It is certainly also one of the reasons 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 mistakes are a helper in the process. 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, but mothers and fathers also need to develop further, in terms of how much they trust their children. Early on, we should start letting go more and more in some ways. If we protect our children too much from any risk, the children will pay a price.
Adolescence in particular is a time when young people are quick to make decisions that may not be particularly well thought out. But that’s part of life; after all, we’ve all been at that particular age. The typical recklessness during this time often makes parents not trust their children with as much sense of responsibility. Overall, we don’t give children and young people enough 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. Of course, no one should burst into praise when a child insists that 2 + 2 = 5, however, at that moment you can ask them to prove their mathematical discovery to make, say, 5 apples out of 2 and 2 apples.
There are many teachers who already make their lessons “error friendly” and let their students try more on their own. They take errors and ask themselves if there is an idea of their own in them. We parents can do the same by being mindful of error. This 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 is always learning. But it’s worth it. Because the future needs courageous thinkers who think outside the box, and our children need a genuine joy in learning.