Teen Mistakes & Why They’re Important for Development

girl 570557 1280As parents, we often feel as if we must shield our children from the pain of failing and making mistakes–but this within itself is a mistake. Teen mistakes are a critical part of developing into a capable young adult. Learning that mistakes are just a part of life and how to cope with them is an incredibly essential skill for becoming successful in adulthood. In a recent CNN article, Kelly Wallace–a mother of daughters–discusses her struggle with letting her daughters make mistakes and the importance of moving past that struggle.

Are teen mistakes really essential?

The short answer is yes. The long answer is that if we shield our children from making mistakes, they’ll expect to learn everything from us instead of learning how to do things on their own. Mistakes are what allow us to see a better way; they guide us towards thinking critically and moving out of our comfort zone. If you didn’t succeed this time, what can you do differently to succeed next time?
While it may be infinitely easier in the younger years to do everything for your child and fix everything for your child, when they reach adulthood, things get harder. Suddenly, they expect you to continue doing everything and fixing everything, even though they’re adults and should be able to do it themselves.
Erik Fisher, a psychologist, states:

“Teaching our kids … to see the opportunity in what felt like tragedy, that’s when we become better participants in life rather than people who would rather not play the game at all than play the game and lose.”

Natural consequences will help guide your child

It’s our job as parents to help guide our children towards success–but part of that guiding is letting go of the reins. Your child must be able to assess and recognize their own negative and positive behaviors in order to improve–you won’t always be around to point it out for them. The natural consequences of teen mistakes will guide a teen towards how to do better–especially if you’re on the sidelines ready to be tagged in if it really gets hairy.
Jessica Lahey–author of  “The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed” and writer for the Atlantic, The New York Times and Vermont Public Radio–told Wallace:

“Any time you find yourself jumping in to rescue or take over a task for your kids, stop and ask yourself, ‘Can my kid learn anything from this?’ and if the answer is yes, whether that lesson is in a concrete skill or simply a moment to realize that they are more capable than they thought, restrain yourself. Hold your tongue. Lace your fingers together behind your back, and give your kids the opportunity to find out what they are able to do on their own.”

Teen mistakes are learning opportunities, the parent just needs to remember and promote this idea in order to make them beneficial.

Trails Carolina can help

Trails Carolina is a wilderness therapy program for struggling youth, ages 10-17. Our students commonly deal with issues such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, and other behavioral challenges. We use outdoor learning and wilderness therapy to improve the lives of young people.
For more information about how Trails Carolina can help your child cope with teen mistakes, please call 800-975-7303 today!

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Jeremy Whitworth

As Executive Director at Trails Carolina, a leading wilderness therapy program for youth and teens, I oversee operations and collaborate with our leadership team. Since 2022, I've also hosted the Common Ground Podcast for parents: https://trailscarolina.com/common-ground-podcast/ With a background in Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education, I've managed adventure-based therapeutic programs across the US and Canada. My experiences in competitive athletics and adventure sports have honed my leadership, risk assessment, and decision-making skills, which I apply to running a successful business like Trails Carolina.

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Trails saved my daughter’s life. Amanda is an amazing human and a brilliant therapist. I am so grateful to her, Science Steve, and the other wonderful people who could reach my daughter at a time when I could not.

Margot Lowman August 2022

Great life changing experience for our son. After becoming addicted to gaming during covid he was very depressed. At Trails he experienced the wilderness, Science Steve, learning survival skills and top notch therapy and support etc… I highly recommend! This gave our son and our family a renewed family bond full of love and excitement about his bright future.

Winnifred Wilson July 2022


Outstanding clinical work and superb staff! There’s a great culture at this company and it shows with how they engage with families/clients.

Kristin Brace June 2022


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