When did fail become a forbidden 4-letter word? Somehow, our society has it in their heads that failing is a bad thing. Not me – I want my kids to FAIL! It’s an important part of life. In fact, I’m a big believer that if I want my kids to succeed, first they must learn to fail. Let me explain…
If everything is always handed to you on a silver platter (like a medal for every kid who ever breathes), why would you ever work hard. There is a lot of truth in the saying “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”. When we fail, we try harder the next time.
2. Failing while you’re young is better than failing while you’re old.
It’s much better for a 5-year-old to fail a reading test than for a 26-year-old to not be able to hold a steady job. Giving kids the opportunity to fail when they are young (and learn from it) teaches them how to overcome obstacles. What, you want a 30-year-old child who still throws tantrums? Go ahead, and keep protecting them from life.
3. Failing teaches responsibility.
Back when I was teaching middle school, during the middle of the year, our principal caved into a group of overprotective parents and implemented a school wide policy that all kids could turn in any work, at any time, for full credit. Stop laughing, it’s true. Can you imagine what happened? Suddenly I was bombarded with neglected homework dating back to the first week of school. Not only that, from that point on, students completely disregarded all due dates and turned in assignments at their leisure. We’re talking about 12-14 year olds here who were given a free pass to be totally irresponsible.
Because of that, things go differently around our house. Starting in kindergarten, our kids are expected to be responsible at school. If an assignment is due, it is their job to take it to the teacher (as opposed to me turning in their late work).
In a world where we’re overly concerned with our children’s self-esteem, it is often hard to let reality guide us. We tell our kids that they are fantastic artists when they’re not, or that they played a great game when they were more concerned with chasing butterflies than the ball. No, we don’t need to berate them for these things, just redirect them.
Possibly point out their creativity or ability to connect with nature. Seeing where our children are weak can provide a lot of insight into where they are strong. By wiping away some of the ever-present sugar-coating, we can allow our children to see their failures and help them move onto something where they will have more success.
You can always choose your actions, but you cannot choose the consequences. Most consequences are logical extensions of the action. If you choose to climb too high in a tree, the consequence may be a fall and a broken arm. Running too fast with untied shoes can give you a skinned knee. As kids grow up, gradually give them more freedom so that they can experience failure. It will help them know how much they can do and will allow them to push themselves to new heights.
Especially if you are trying to raise kids who are aware of the risks of adventure, failure at a young age is essential. No one wants the reckless teen who when finally given a little freedom decides to start jumping off 60 foot cliffs. Give your kids a little room and they will reward you with a lifetime of self-awareness.
What it all comes down to is character. As parents, it is our responsibility to teach our children to have strong character so that they can someday be outstanding adults. This starts at birth, not college graduation. Foster Cline and Jim Fay nailed it right on the head in their book “Parenting with Love and Logic”. When children see that parents are willing to love and support them regardless of whether they win or lose, we can make the most of our relationship.
I’d venture to say that one of the real problems in the world today is parents who won’t let their children make mistakes. Are you part of the problem or part of the solution?