When Kids Make Mistakes, Ask These 8 Questions
Updated: Feb 14
People make mistakes. Mistakes are what makes us learn, grow, and progress. When parents see kids feeling frustrated and make mistakes, our protective instinct propels us to lend a hand to help them. Yes, we are older and wiser. We have been through the struggles, and we know a better and faster way to accomplish things. So what's wrong with helping them along?
Interestingly, research shows that when parents actively remove obstacles and solve problems for kids too readily, their learning becomes motivated extrinsically - they put in efforts into learning only when there's an external reward, perfectionistic discrepancy - highly perfectionistic can inspire them to achieve their maximum potential; however, these very same standards can lead them to torture themselves over even the smallest deviation from their high expectations of errorless performance, and avoidance goals for learning, which have been associated with lower academic performance in prior research. Some research also reports that over-involved parents is related to children’s sense of entitlement. Other research suggests that over-parenting is related to maladaptive academic motivations that may have negative implications for academic achievement.
We need to remind ourselves that it's natural and a must for children to encounter all sorts of problems as they mature into adulthood. Relax and don't be too worried or anxious to intervene just yet.
Here are EIGHT questions to ask and listen to what they're thinking as we build their self-confidence, critical thinking and problem solving skills.
1. “What Happened?"
This question might seem somewhat redundant, but it is actually very important.
A lot of times, we tend to make assumptions as to what we think might have happened instead of letting our kids talk about it. "You must have done something wrong, and that's why you got a timeout." If we don't let kids describe the event from their own perspective, it's possible they might feel wronged. By giving them a chance to speak up, even if they're at fault, they would be more likely to own up to their own mistakes because they have had a chance to verbally process it.
2. "How Do You Feel about That?"
When a person speak about what has happened to themselves, it's purely subjective and there's no right or wrong answer. Once the feeling is released by talking it out or crying, we feel much better. According to neuroscience research, when a person is overwhelmed with strong emotions internally, our brain isn't able to absorb any other outer stimulation. In other words, when we're still filled with emotions, it's difficult to understand or receive any advice from other people. After our emotion is calmed, the brain is then able to process things logically again. Therefore, if we'd like our kids to really listen to what we have to say, we first have to empathize their feelings and allow a proper emotional outlet for them.
After they're calmed, we ask this:
3. "What Would You Like to Do?"
No matter how outrageous or exaggerated they might make it to be, hold off on lecturing and calmly ask the next question.
4. "What Other Options Do You Have?"
At this stage, brainstorm with your kids to come up with different ideas. These ideas could be reasonable, illogical, silly, ridiculous, crazy, etc. The point of this brainstorming session is to freely allow any ideas to come forth. By giving them this no-judgement space, your kids are more likely to open up to you and make a deeper connection with you. No matter what you hear, be sure not to criticize or make any judgements.
After this brainstorming session, you can ask this next question:
5. "What Do You Think Would Happen Afterwards?"
Ask this question for each of the solution your child comes up. You might be surprised to discovered that most kids actually understand the consequences that follow their actions. If their prediction is off, use this opportunity to discuss and let them understand what actually might happen. This serves as a great bonding time for parents and their children. Avoid lecturing by stating only facts.
Then ask your child:
6. "What Have You Decide to Do?"
Kids will inevitably choose the best outcome in favor of themselves. If they fully understand the consequences and outcome, they usually will make the most reasonable choice. Even if it might not be the choice an adult might choose, respect their choice. It won't work if we first ask them what they want to do and tell them afterwards they can't do that. It's counter-productive and makes the child hard to trust. Understand that even if they've chosen the decision that you might not have picked yourself, honor their choice and let them learn the consequences that might follow.
7. "What Can I Do For You?"
Ask this question to show your support.
Take the opportunity afterwards to have a post-mortem follow up.
8. "Did Things Go Like The Way You Expected?"
Ask your child to think back and reflect. "What happened with the choice you've made? Did things go the way you've expected?"
You can also ask, "If this were to happen again, what would you do next time?" This will serve as a great opportunity to reexamine the choices they've made on their own.
Childhood is an internship for adulthood. While we love and want to protect our children from struggles and pain, we must remind ourselves to give them the chance to make their own mistakes by giving them the proper scaffold to help build the necessary tools to function in their adulthood.
Make use these EIGHT questions to discuss what they're feeling and thinking. Practice this often to train their thought process to strengthen their problem solving and critical thinking skills.
Ask These 8 Questions When Your Child Makes A Mistake
Tell us the scenario in which you've used this to help your children sort out their mistakes. How did it work out for you?
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