3. Let Your Child Make Mistakes
Your 2-year-old is building a tower, and you see that the block he's about to place on top will cause it to come crashing down. Anxious to avoid the crash (and ensuing tears), you stop him from adding the block, explaining that sometimes "one more is one too many." While you're right to prevent accidents that could cause harm, allowing your child to learn from his errors instills the lesson at hand better than an explanation ever could, says Christopher Lucas, MD, an associate professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine, in New York City.
At a very basic level, this kind of mistake helps a child understand cause and effect. But it's also more emotionally healthy to let your child experience disappointment sometimes -- especially in the form of a toppled block tower -- instead of shielding him from any and all negative events, Dr. Lucas adds.
Similarly, when your baby is mastering how to use a sippy cup or your toddler is learning to dress himself, experts like Dr. Lucas encourage parents to let mistakes happen. Lillian Valentine Hope, mother of 18-month-old Lauren, remembers her daughter's first attempts to drink water from a cup. "The first time, she started gagging a little. My first impulse was to panic and grab it from her," says Hope, who lives in Brookfield, Connecticut. "But I chose instead to say 'It's okay' and 'Let's try it again!' After a few rounds of trial and error and soaked shirts, she was successful." Dr. Lucas says there's good reason for this: "Children learn best on the edge of failure -- that's where the challenge is and where there's the most opportunity for growth."