7 Mistakes You Should Let Your Kids Make

An enormous slide and a determined toddler.  Not the sort of combination every parent is hoping for on their first trip to the park.  You watch your child teeter up the ladder, push through the chaos of older kids, and plop down at the top of the slide.  You wait with a nervous smile and open arms at the bottom, hoping nothing will go wrong.  And a moment later, you’re cradling your child once again.

But what about when your child grows into a teenager and the slide turns into a math test?  It’s tough to know at what point you step away and let your teenager make decisions that may have painful consequences.  But a little bit of pain can be a good teacher.

Here are 7 mistakes you may allow your kids to make:

1. Let them fail a test.  If your son chooses to disregard your advice to turn off the movie and study, don’t be afraid to let him fail a test.  Sometimes it takes one bad grade to wake him up to the importance of studying so he’ll do well on future tests.

2. Let them run low on gas.  Your daughter spent more than she should have at the mall, and is left without money to fill up her car with gas.  Let her learn. It will teach her how to handle money more wisely.

3. Let them forget their practice equipment. When your son rushes out the door and forgets his practice jersey for football, don’t offer to drive all the way up to the field and bring it to him.  Let him explain to the coach that it was his own fault he wasn’t prepared and let him experience the consequences from the coach.

4. Let them leave their homework at home.  So your son leaves his homework in a stack of messy papers on the floor instead of in his backpack.  Let him learn a lesson in responsibility instead of taking the homework to his school.

5. Let them forget their lunch.  If your daughter has too much on her mind to remember to grab her lunch off the counter in the morning, let her figure out a solution at school.  Don’t take it to her.

6. Let them wear dirty socks.  So your son never brought down his laundry basket last night when you asked him to.  When it’s 7 a.m. and he’s running around the house asking you why he has no clean socks, tell him to grab a dirty pair out of the laundry and make it work.  Next time, he will obey right away if he wants to avoid more smelly socks.

7. Let them miss a target.  A week ago, you told your daughter she had to clean her room if she wanted to go a concert Friday night.  If she’s ready to walk out the door that night with her room still a disaster, don’t go back on your word.  No clean room…no concert. 

Can you think of any other mistakes you should let your kids make? If so, please share with me below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Jasper

    Oh boy would I ever!! However we are a two family home and that puts a wrinkle in it. The kids mom will do any and everything for her kids so even if we tried to let them learn a nice life lesson their mom comes to the rescue. It’s pretty sad because the kids are going to be set up for some tough lessons in adulthood. But I 100% agree with this article.

  • Richard

    As a parent, sometimes you want things more
    than your kids (at the time). As a parent sometimes you want your kids
    to be, or rather appear, to have it all together. I still have to
    wrestle myself and hold back to prevent my kids from making mistakes.
    But then…they need to learn responsibility and so many other realities
    of life that mistakes can teach them.

  • Mike

    Rather than allowance, we pay our boys for the work they do. We have shown them the standards of each completed job. If the job is not to standards, no pay. Life – paid for a job well done and doing your best. They only had to fail once, not get paid and still had to complete the job.

  • Guest

    So true! Let them do some falling down while they are still at home, and they’ll be that much more together when they leave the nest.

  • Nancy

    Let them forget their hat & have to sit under the tree instead of play at recess.

  • Thanks for your thoughts, Richard. As I often say, it’s easier to write about these things than do them!

  • Mike, good thought. Teach our kids to do their work with excellence!

  • James

    When I would inspect a job that my girls had given a half hearted attempt to complete I would try to instill some family pride while still expressing my displeasure with their effort by saying: “This is probably good enough for most girls, but you’re not most girls, you’re my girls, and my girls can do better.”
    They both graduated from high school, with honors, president of the senior class, captain of the lacrosse team and neither one have ever had anything but an “A” in their life. I’ve always tried to generate a sense of pride in who they are and where they came from so they aren’t always trying to do the task to please me but also themselves. It seams to have worked so far.


  • Absolutely!

  • Sharon

    I agree with this 100%. Nothing teaches better than lessons learned from. If you continue to do everything for your kids, how will they ever learn and grow? Parents are to prepare their children to learn to live in the world. Everyone must grow up and earn a living. When one parent always comes to their rescue, they are only setting up their child for some hard tough lessons in adulthood.

  • Ryan

    I have an adult child still living at home and refusing to work. She is going to school but not full time. She needs to get a part time job but has been fired before so she is afraid to put herself out there again. How can I get her to try again… any suggestions especially if they don’t want to even try?

  • Sharon, thanks for your words of affirmation.

  • Henry Baiz

    Thank you, I agree but have a situation where it could be different: What if my 9yr old child forgot his homework last Friday at school. Should I encourage him to find a solution like to call his friends for a copy, find it online? or should I just let him fail and receive a bad grade? I feel that teaching him to accept that failure so he stops forgetting is wrong, instead of teaching him to persevere and try to do something to solve it while he can. What do you think?

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