Overview: As parents we tend to always correct our kids, but studies show that when we leave kids to figure it out on their own their learning is deeper.

Last weekend my husband had the crazy idea that we needed a puppy on top of a 2 month old and 2 year old.

So lucky me, gets to hang out all day with a 2 year old, 2 month old, and our brand new 2 month old puppy. It’s been one hectic week!

On New Year’s Eve, my husband’s dog got out at his parents house and was hit by a truck. Unfortunately he didn’t make it, and my husband has been itching for another dog ever since. Sicily adored his old dog, Bishop, who she called Botch.

When we brought home our new puppy, Zeus, we explained that this is our new puppy and his name is Zeus. Sicily immediately said

“Hi Botch Juice (Zeus)!”

We tried to explain that this dog was not Bishop, but she refuses to call the dog just Zeus. So I just let her go on calling our dog “Botch Juice.”

I find this absolutely adorable, but it’s not the reason why I don’t correct her.

Sicily also loves to count. We have been counting the steps in our house since she was able to walk up them, and it’s the reason she can only count to 13. “1…2…3…4…6…7…8…9…”

She always skips 5, but again I don’t correct her.

The Problem with Correcting Kids

In How Children Learn, John Holt says

One of the most important things teachers can do for any learner is to make the learner less and less dependent on them. We need to give students ways to find out for themselves whether what they have done is correct and makes sense

Constantly correcting (and testing) a child can hurt their confidence. The more we correct them the less confident they are to try new things or learn new things.

When we are constantly correcting our children, we lower their self-esteem. This goes hand in hand with confidence. If a child is not confident in what they are doing, they will develop a low self-esteem and start to feel like they can’t do it. That’s why you hear many kids say “I can’t!”

One of the main things I want my kids to walk away from me learning is that it’s okay to fail. I want them to learn how failure is the essential building block to learning. I want them to understand how to take a failure and turn it into a learning opportunity. Not correcting them is the first step to understanding the concept of learning from failure.

Children are very observant creatures and will typically pick up their own mistakes. Sometimes they figure it out right away and other times it may take a year to get it right. That’s okay!

And trust me, if they need help figuring something out, they will ask.

A Little Nudge

But that doesn’t mean you have to sit around and patiently wait for your child to realize their mistake. It all goes back to creating an environment that supports learning and encourages them to learn from their mistakes.

It should be obvious, but you don’t want to tell them that they are wrong or give them the correct answer straightforward. You have to be sneaky about it.

One way to be sneaky is to repeat what they are saying by using the correct word (or whatever they messed up on) and elaborating on their sentence. For example, if Sicily says “Botch Juice toy.” I would reply with “You want to give Zeus his toy fox?”

I used the word she messed up correctly without directly telling her she made a mistake. I also added new vocabulary by adding what the toy was.

The same can go for the counting that she messes up on. As we walk up the steps, I would continue to count the correct way without stopping when she skips number 5.

Eventually, she will realize her mistake and correct it herself. It just may not seem like an important thing to learn at the moment, so she won’t correct it right away.

The trick to this is to not go overboard. You don’t want to start counting everything or using the word Zeus a million times a day so she hears the correct way. Kids are smart, and they will catch on to your “sneaky” approach if you are constantly using the words they are using wrong.

What if They Never Correct Themselves?

Some times we do have to step in and correct them if it is hindering their learning. For example, if Sicily is interested in learning how to add, but is still skipping the number 5, then I might step in and help her fix this mistake because it will hinder the learning of her adding. If she is really ready to learn how to add, she will learn to count correctly quickly.

So I would wait until it’s important to learn in order to be successful with a new concept or it’s been more than a year.

Mistakes are not as big of a deal as we may think. It’s okay to make mistakes, but it’s even more important to learn how to fix those mistakes on our own.

Happy Learning!