The Path to Wisdom is Paved with Mistakes: Teaching Children Self-Trust

It’s true: The path to wisdom is paved with mistakes.

You and I know this because we are adults and we have made our fair share of mistakes. We have gained wisdom and knowledge from those mistakes, and with that, a level of confidence in ourselves. It is very fair to say that mistakes are our greatest teachers. Many a philosophical quote reminds us of this.


So why, in schools, do we punish mistakes and reward memorization of correct answers?

Could we choose to place value on both?

Of course we can.

We must create space and opportunities for our children to make mistakes. In that mistake making and the learning that happens as a result, trust in the self is developed. When a child trusts herself, she can trust her own inner voice to answer a question or tackle a problem. She will learn not to be dismayed by mistakes along the way, because she knows that this is where she will learn more, become smarter and wiser, and trust herself to continue moving forward.

imageAre we teaching our children how to build self-trust? Are we guiding them on the path of learning self love and self acceptance that comes from self-trust? Or are we instilling fear of failure by creating a fear of the grades associated with mistakes? I’m afraid that we are doing the latter, and it is doing damage to the developing self-trust and delicate self-confidence that takes root there. We are are failing our children by continuing to reward correctness over the personal growth that comes from learning from failure. The disservice – and the damage done – when we reward correctness over personal growth is removing all opportunity to learn the essential knowledge body of self-awareness that comes from true learning, trying, making mistakes, failing, trying again and so on.

We are are failing our children by continuing to reward correctness over the personal growth that comes from learning from failure.

It’s time for education to do a 180°. It’s time to reward mistakes and failure and open up the teaching moment inherent in this space.  It’s time to rethink grades, rubrics, lessons, and refocus our teaching on being guides, coaching our young people to succeed at life.

Any of the numerous methods of empowering students featured on this website or in any of my work provide fertile ground for students to learn about themselves and the real world while “trying on” new ideas that allow them to explore, create, fail -and learn about themselves along the way.

Time to make failure a soft skill. And guess what? There is no standardized way to fail.


About the Author:

Amy L. Carrier is an advocate for children, true education reform that puts children first and community engagement in the classroom. She has been building new solutions in education since 2000. She is known for empowering teens to become entrepreneurs teaching them how to create their own unique solutions to problems in their communities. Amy has been interviewed on CNN about teaching business and entrepreneurship in schools.

Amy founded Empowerment Through Education in 2012 and serves as a coachspeakereducational consultant and advocate for educational change that puts children and their futures first.

Follow and read more of Amy’s writing on her blog and connect on LinkedIn.