Recently I came across an article entitled, 10 Things You Should Never Do In Life.

Now, I was taught not to say never in my writing by the editor of my book, Thomas Cantrell, so I was piqued by the list.

I discovered that most of the items were things that were commonly done in life. 

Never try smoking, ignore your parents, let anyone control your life, avoid your health, put work over family or friends, spend more than you earn, be judgmental, or quit your dreams.

In fact, as I read the list I wondered how the author had decided on these things. 

Has he learned them?

We most often learn things by making mistakes.

Mistakes are doing those things that we shouldn’t. Sometimes we know we shouldn’t and sometimes we don’t. That isn’t really the issue. What is relevant here is that we learn. 

Hopefully when the price of the mistake is low.

And, this is where many parents make a common mistake in raising their children.

They try to save their child from the consequences of the mistake. Let them fail

When we take away mistakes by wiping away the consequences, we take away the learning from the child and they are bound to repeat the same ones. Repeated mistakes as an adult lead to more drastic consequences.

Take a child who steals something. 

If the parent covers up the theft or makes restitution themselves, then what  has the child learned? 

They learn that mom or dad will take care of the consequences, not that they themselves will suffer when they steal. So why not do it again?

At some point if their thievery continues, there will come a theft where mom or dad can’t wipe it away and the law takes control, insisting that the perpetrator takes the consequence. 

I often quote Maya Angelou when I say, “When we know better we do better.” 

We can’t “know better” if we don’t experience consequences. 

And natural consequences are better than artificial ones.

Natural consequences follow the misdeed.

If a child throws a rock and breaks a neighbor's window, they need to pay for the damage. A young child often does not have money and can’t get a job, so maybe they water the neighbor’s plants or walk their dog, or do something else to pay the price. If they have been saving for a bike and are close to having enough money, maybe their savings is wiped out and they go another year or two without the new bike. 

That will get their attention. 

It would be fantastic if we could just tell our kids a list of do’s and don’ts and they followed them.

But, anyone who has been a parent more than a second knows that isn’t the case. Kids are going to make mistakes, parents did when they were kids. Parents still do.

Try looking at your child’s mistakes as a wonderful opportunity to learn. 

Tell them just that. “You have a wonderful opportunity to learn right now and so you get to miss out on camping with your friends and instead wash the neighbor’s cars and mow their lawn.” 

Then when we have learned the valuable lesson, we can say things like, you should never put work over friends or family, avoid your health and spend more than you earn. 

What are your “nevers”? Were they learned through consequences of mistakes? 

Those are some of the most valuable lessons we can learn in life. Be grateful for the mistakes and consequences that teach us our “nevers”.

Dr. Paul