5 Mistakes You Should Let Your Teen Make

Help your teen turn these mistakes into valuable learning opportunities.
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Sometimes, in an effort to prepare children for the real world, well-meaning parents ensure their teens always have top grades, an active social life, and the best privileges they can earn. Unfortunately, if they never allow for enough freedom to make mistakes, their attempts to set their teen up for success can actually backfire.

Although it’s important to give your child plenty of support and guidance, it’s equally important to give her a chance to experience failure.

Rather than prevent mistakes, focus on helping your teen learn from them. Here are five mistakes you should let your teen make:

1. Let Your Teen Make a Few Questionable Friends

To a certain extent, it’s important to allow your teen to choose her own friends – even if it involves hanging out with the wrong crowd. Forbidding your teen from spending time with certain kids will likely make your teen want to hang out with them even more.

If your teen makes some questionable social choices, share your concerns and monitor your teen’s activities. Rather than deny access to certain peers, allow for limited social interaction with clear rules and limits. This can provide your child an opportunity to see some of the issues you’re concerned about and perhaps she’ll decide to end the friendship on her own terms.

2. Allow Your Teen to Avoid Responsibility

Sometimes, parents want their children to get good grades or impress their coaches so much that they prevent them from making any mistakes.

A father may nag a teen to get his homework done every night to prevent him from ever receiving a zero. Or a mother may double-check her teen’s sports bag every day to make sure she never forgets any of her equipment.

Micromanaging your teen’s daily activities to prevent any errors won’t teach him to behave responsibly.

In fact, it can cause your teen to become dependent on you for reminders and support. Let your teen behave irresponsibly sometimes, just so he can experience the natural consequences of his behavior.

3. Permit Your Teen to Engage in Self-Expression

Increased autonomy and independence is part of normal adolescent development. Often, that means expressing themselves in some questionable ways. While one teen may insist on dying his hair green, another may choose a mismatched wardrobe.

Although there’s a balance to be struck when it comes to allowing for self-expression, as long as your teen’s choices aren’t offensive or harmful, it can be helpful to his development. When he’s older he may look back and cringe at some of his teenage fashion choices, but expressing himself through his style may prevent him from rebelling in other ways.

4. Let Your Teen Fail at Something

Sometimes parents just can’t tolerate watching their child fail. In an effort to prevent failure, they purposely steer their child down roads that will likely lead to success.

But preventing failure may cheat your child out of learning how to bounce back from disappointment.

If your 5’2 son wants to try out for the basketball for the first time, let him try. Or, if your daughter wants to pursue chorus even though she can’t sing, don’t stand in her way. Use your child’s failures as a learning opportunity to teach him how to overcome obstacles and deal with disappointment.

5. Let Your Teen Experience Blunders that Cause Discomfort

Resist the temptation to always shield your teen from uncomfortable emotions. It’s important for teens to learn how to deal with emotions such as anxiety, anger, sadness, and loneliness. Experiencing these emotions and learning how to cope with them can build confidence in their ability to deal with discomfort.

It can also be healthy to allow your teen to experience physical discomfort. If your teen wants to wear shorts when it’s cold outside, let him do it. Or if your teen forgets his lunch, let him skip a meal. The natural consequences he’ll experience may serve as a valuable teaching tool. 

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