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10-19 The importance of learning from mistakes

The importance of learning from mistakes

Adolescence is filled with learned lessons and a growing sense of maturity through experience. As current generations of teens struggle with high expectations to succeed, it is still important for them to know that mistakes are a natural part of growing up.

Gary Gilles, LCPC and faculty member of the University of Chicago, Trinity International University and Argosy University, explained in his 2014 piece, “Allowing Adolescents to Make Mistakes,” how people begin attempting and accomplishing new tasks beginning as early as three years old, which become more complex over time. If parents react negatively to the mistakes of their offspring when they try new things, the children may develop feelings of inadequacy about themselves. If this low self-efficacy continues into adolescence, it will manifest as destructive blame, either turned inward as depression or anxiety or outward as anger and other deviant behaviors.

As a parent himself, Giles added, “We will place too much emphasis on correcting their mistakes instead of trying to help them make sense of their mistakes. The idea is to be tuned in to your teen’s self-efficacy and learn to respond in a way that allows them to make the necessary mistakes and see this as practice and not failure.”

In the 2010 article, “Adolescence and mistake-based education,” Carl E. Pickhardt, Ph.D., a private counseling psychologist based in Austin, Texas, explained how parents who are overbearing in their adolescent’s consequences rob them of an opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge on life and improve as a person. He also detailed key principles for this mistake-based education, which included:

  • Individuals do not intend to make mistakes; they make mistakes because of a lack of knowledge, experience or critical thinking skills at that moment in time.
  • All mistakes have a cost, but they can also be worth the price if one is informed and instructed for the future.
  • Not paying attention leads to careless mistakes trying something new or difficult, which leads to constructive mistakes, but both have the capacity to teach a powerful lesson.
  • Making a mistake is not a form of failure, but not learning from a mistake is one.

Dr. Pickhardt summarized, “In childhood, the age of dependence, a conscientious parent is often the best teacher. In adolescence, the age of independence, confronting hard consequences is often the best teacher.”

If you or your child is struggling with any form of mental or behavioral affliction, support is available through Sovereign Health Rancho San Diego. Specializing in the treatment of teenagers struggling with substance abuse, mental health disorders and dual diagnosis, comprehensive help is just a phone call away.

Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer

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