Expert Parenting Advice
Practical parenting tips and advice from experts around the world

Why you should let your kids make mistakes

Why sometimes the best approach when your child doesn't want to listen to you is just to let them experience the natural consequence of their action

Tuesday, 10am. The home is quiet because the kids are finally at school.

Suddenly, my phone rings.

"Hello, this is the school. Something happened to your son."

My heart stops for a moment.

They continue, "He burnt himself while drinking hot chocolate."

"Oh no, is he ok?" I stutter.

"It's not bad, just a little red. He's fine now," the teacher assures me.

Several emotions flood into me. I feel relief. I feel bad for him. But, there is also a hint of (dare I say it) satisfaction...

Here's the full story:

Earlier that morning, just as we were leaving, my son told me, "Mom, it is hot chocolate day at school. Please get me a cup."

So, I got him a cup with a screw-on lid.

"No, I don't want this cup. I want an open cup," he told me.

"But honey, you might burn yourself," I replied.

"No, I won't. I want an open cup!" he repeated, stamping his feet.

So I got him the open cup he wanted.

Which brings us back to the phone call. And the reason for that hint of satisfaction. That feeling of "you should have listened to me".

Sometimes I have found the best approach when your child doesn't want to listen to you is just to let them experience the natural consequence of their action.

Jennifer Kolari also mentioned this idea when we interviewed her for our book How To Get Kids To Listen.

Jennifer is a child and family therapist, a very highly sought-after international parenting expert and speaker, and the founder of Connected Parenting.

In the interview, we discussed a simple example of what to do when your child doesn't want to wear their raincoat.

Jennifer shared several techniques that you can use to get your child to cooperate, including her "Front Loading" technique and her "Stay In Motion" technique.

But, she also explained that sometimes the best approach is to just let your kid experience the natural consequences of their actions.

A whole other element is sometimes you don’t make them wear it. Let them figure out what happens once they don’t wear it. You can pick your battles. So, either way, you can mirror and say, “Well, why don’t you not wear it? And then you’ll figure it out. You’re very smart. Next time you’ll figure out what you need to do. I’m happy to let you figure that out.”

Jennifer Kolari

In the interview, Jennifer also shares how to use her “C.A.L.M. Technique” to turn your language and words into medicine that calms your child and helps them cooperate.

Jennifer describes using this technique as a "parenting superpower", because it works so well for getting kids to cooperate.