But that doesn’t mean they will, just because something happened to them. Most of the time young people go from one life event to another without learning a thing. The same thing is true of adults!
What makes the difference? What’s the magic that transforms an everyday event into a lesson learned? The key is to reflect on what happened. Research has shown that people learn from an experience only when they think about it afterward.
If you want your child to learn from experience, what should they be thinking about?
It’s not that complicated. When something significant happens, whether it’s a success or a disappointment, the most powerful way to go from an experience to an insight to a better experience in the future is to reflect on these questions, in roughly this sequence…
1. What happened? Who did what? What was the sequence of events?
2. Why did it happen that way? Why did it happen? What caused the result? What went wrong – or right?
3. What were the consequences? What was the impact? Outcomes? Benefits? Costs?
4. What would you do differently in the future? What lessons did you learn?
Young people aren’t in the habit of doing this kind of analysis. But you can help them by asking the questions for them and then listening to what they say. Sometimes a bright child will connect the dots and answer a question you haven’t asked yet. Excellent! You won’t need to ask that one! Resist the temptation to correct them or answer the question for them. Let them do the talking. Let them figure it out.
This will help them (1) learn the lesson and (2) get in the habit of thinking through their experiences.
Asking these open-ended questions is ten thousand times better than reacting emotionally, blaming, ridiculing, lecturing, or worse. It’s one way you can help your child learn to think about life, which will help them construct the mental habits for critical thinking. And they’ll love figuring things out for themselves.
Helping a child learn from experience is the topic of Chapter 6 in my how-to book: Connect with Your Kid: Mastering the Top 10 Parent-Child Communication Skills.
Also, you can download 4 FREE guides, including “The No. 1 Way to Nurture the Bond with Your Teen.”