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  • Robb Jenson

Can Your Student Make a Good Mistake? Yes, Here’s Why:

As parents, I’m sure your child has had made more than their fair share of poor choices and you often ask yourself: What are they thinking? Well, we’re here to tell you that not all mistakes are bad ones, and many can be used as teachable moments if you choose your approach wisely. Below are the four different types of mistakes and the questions to ask to turn them from disaster to development, in a good way.

1. “Sloppy” Mistakes: These mistakes are often referred to as careless or casual errors. These mistakes mostly happened because the student is either tired, ill prepared, or hasn’t put forth the proper effort. As a student, it is important to understand why or how they are repeating mistakes in this area, and what behaviors your child can modify to prevent them. - Questions to ask: What was your approach to this situation? Were you prepared to do your best? What can you do differently next time to prevent this same mistakes.

2. High-Stakes Mistakes: These types of mistakes could be catastrophic if a poor choice were to lead to a worst case scenario. Some examples could be driving too fast in an unsafe environment or deciding to do an assignment worth over half your grade for the term at the last minute. In either choice, things could go well or they could end very badly. This type of mistake offers little individual growth opportunity and serves more as an educational moment on “what not to do” the next time you’re approached with a similar situation.​

- Questions to ask: How did you see this scenario playing out and what risks did you for see, if any? What’s the worst that could have happened if things went wrong?

3. “Aha”-Moment Mistakes: These mistakes are often rare and sometimes come and go without your knowledge, or completely without notice. These moments are best created out of unintentional mistakes but are discovered by our continuous self-assessment and an appreciation of our surrounding environment. These moments are best characterized as times where the “light bulb” essentially goes off, allowing your child to see things from a different perspective. ​- Questions to ask: What was your perception of things before the event and how is it different now? What is the most significant lesson that can attribute to your newfound perspective? How can you use this knowledge to further your development?

4. Stretch Mistakes: These are the best type of “mistakes” and ones that you frequently want to experience. These are often created by either challenging or pushing yourself into a foreign area that can make you feel uneasy and uncertain of the outcome. However, because of this, the opportunity to learn from this mistake is high, and whether things go well or poorly the risks are typically not life changing or will likely only affect you for only a short while. Some examples may include choosing to take the lead on class presentation or trying to start your own video blog. You may fall short in some attempts, but you can learn a lot in the process and gain much needed skills that will help in other areas too. Regardless, make it a habit to look for well-planned opportunities that will either grow a specific skill set or increase your knowledge base. - Questions to ask: What areas do you feel need developing and how can you increase your access to promising opportunities? What are the potential risks and how can you grow from these? Afterward, what did you learn from the experience and how would you change your approach? What more have you discovered about yourself that needs developing?

It’s important to remember that not all mistakes are created equal: some do not have the same learning potential as others. However, it is possible that your child is missing out and repeating many of the same mistakes because of their failure to analyze and assess them. Mistakes are an excellent way to learn and grow as a person and can expedite a child’s professional growth process if they are diligent in their desire to continually internally evaluate themselves.

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