Let Them Fail

Pointers for Parents are regular inspirations to bring hope and encouragement to parents. I hope to build a bridge between parents and teachers as it pertains to the education of children and how we can work together for the betterment of our kids.


 You read that title right.  Let your kids fail.  I know that goes against the recent trends of safety and protection at all costs, but it is in their failures that they learn resilience, perseverance, and determination.  They find out what they are bad at, and the areas in which they excel.  In past generations, kids learned the ability to bounce back and be resourceful much more easily than they do today.  I believe that is due to the fact that life, in an agrarian society, taught them these things.  Now, kids don’t have to wait for the corn to grow in order to eat it, or fix the tractor with duct tape…in most places anyway.  They don’t have to do much of what our fathers and grandfathers had to.  I believe to find out who they are, they have to have the opportunity to find out who they aren’t.  Failure teaches them that.

Repeated failure taught me, I am not a math whiz, I am not an athlete, I am not a seamstress nor a musician.  I had to do these things over and over again, always with the hope that I would finally get it, in order to realize I would not be good at everything.  My self-esteem took a hit for sure, but I have a great respect for others who are good at those things, because I know how difficult they can be.  On the other hand, I have also found some things I am good at over the years.  I can write.  I can see why kids struggle to learn.  I can show hospitality.  I have moved towards these things that seem easy for me.

Don’t we want this for our kids…to know themselves…to be able to grow and learn from mistakes?  I think we do.  There is a big difference between setting them up to fail, and allowing failure.  I am not a proponent of setting them up to fail, in fact I think they need every opportunity to succeed and to make some age appropriate choices along the way.  In those choices, however, they need to have real life consequences.  As parents, we cannot remove those risks. If we do, we are interrupting learning and the development of resiliency.  I know why we protect; it is because we remember the pains of childhood. We love greatly.  We believe it is our duty and calling to keep our kids pain free. In our minds we are good parents if we protect them well. I would agree our role is protector, but it is also encourager and teacher.  Over-protection is an obstacle to their growing up.  How to handle failure is a vital lesson to impart.  How to get back up and keep going is important to model for our kids.

I think the main thing is that it hurts us when they hurt.  We don’t want to watch them struggle.  It is one of the most difficult things to watch your kids make decisions that lead them to hard places.  Especially when you know another way that would avoid those places.  Your heart breaks, and in reality I think that the reason helicopter parenting is a thing is because we want to avoid having our own hearts broken as much as we do theirs.  In order to succeed in life, we have to let them fail at life first. So the next time your child doesn’t make the team, the grade, or get the part in the play,  instead of going after the coach or teacher, have a heart to heart with your child.  Tell some painful stories of failure from your own childhood so they will know they are not alone. That’s called showing empathy and it will create a bond. Give hugs and reinforce that your love is not based on success or failure, but on the fact that they are your child.  Help them learn to grieve loss well, and then to get back up again. It takes strength on our part, as parents not to always run to the rescue, but teaching our children about failure is better than helping them to avoid it.

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