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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…
1. Failing teaches persistence.
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).
4. We learn where our strengths are by failing.
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.
5. Failing teaches kids to set boundaries.
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?
7 thoughts on “I want my kids to FAIL!”
I absolutely agree 1000%!! Not making the team when I was younger made me practice and work harder to make it the next year. It teaches you to work for what you want. It stinks to not win or come home with a ribbon, but that’s life. My hubby is a coach at a middle school and he says the worst part of tryouts is the parents who flood the school and principal’s office with calls demanding their kid makes the team (which the school makes happen – so what’s the point of “try” outs!?) Now everyone wins a trophy, everyone gets “in” – and parents really aren’t doing their kids any favors. After living your life never hearing “you’ll have to try harder”, “maybe next time”, or even “no”, these kids are going to grow up so ill-equipped for work, a relationship, just life as an adult!!
I also completely agree too!
NIcely said 🙂
I’d add that allowing our kids to experience failure at a young age and supporting them through it enables them to see that our love for them is not connected to whether or not they “win”. With that confidence kids are emboldened to work harder and try again, or instead to try something new, because they become less and less fearful of the idea of failing.
Good point Lin – I’l add a little about that!
And seeking opportunities to fail means you’re also taking risks for success. Many people spend much of their lives not failing because they aren’t attempting to succeed at anything. I would rather see my children fail as they reach for new heights and set character-stretching goals than watch them “succeed” at mediocrity. Shielding our children from failure is simply one more component of the bigotry of low expectations.
Yes, yes, yes! It is so important or parents to remember this no matter how hard it is to watch or let it happen. Excellent article.
Yes, yes, yes.
Childhood is about learning – it’s about learning how to succeed and how to fail! It’s about learning to persevere when things get hard, it’s about learning that hard work pays off and it’s about learning that you might not be the best at everything. It’s about learning to pick yourself up after you falter and how to try again. It’s about learning to have fun even if you might not be first and it’s about being graceful when you’re last. It’s about learning to have the courage to try and it’s about learning who you are. It’s about raising them to be adults.
Parents – encourage your children to try whatever they desire and please don’t pigeonhole them. Even if they aren’t the most graceful, strong or fast, let them try a sport or another athletic activity – there’s something out there for everyone. Same goes for arts, maths, sciences, etc.