When did it become detrimental to let a child fail? Why are they rewarded for something they should be doing anyway? When did “I did my best” become an excuse for shoddy work?
Failure Can Be A Good Thing
What?! How can this be?! Failure will scar a child for life. Really? Failure is character building and creates self-confidence. How do I know? Because I learned many lessons from the “failures” in my life. I learned that I won’t die if I”m not perfect. I learned that if I keep trying I get better each time. I learned to celebrate and truly appreciate my success. I learned that life was hard, but I could do it anyway.
Let Them Fail
I started “letting go” when my children were small. I didn’t just leave them to fend for themselves, I gave them opportunities to fail. It is not a bad thing for children to fail. They learn so much from it. While my heart ached for them when they hurt, we had many of the sweetest and most intimate chats as we talked about what happened. When they succeeded we celebrated together.
Either way, they knew they were wonderful and important human beings.
Safe Beginner Choices
When would should your child have their “biggest failures”? When they are small of course. Why? Because the consequences are small. When children learn to make good choices early, they make better choices as they get older. Here are some safe “beginner” choices:
- What clothes should I wear? (I started by setting out three appropriate outfits for them to choose from.)
- Can I eat my Halloween, Easter, Christmas candy? (Too much does make them sick, but it doesn’t last very long and it is a great opportunity to discuss things that are good and bad for their bodies.)
- Do I have to clean my room? (They learned very quickly that I would clean out their room if they didn’t put things away.)
- Do I have to put away my toys when I’m done playing? (It is amazing what happens when they disappear and chores are required to get them back.)
- Staying up late reading or watching movies. (Early mornings are a bear when you are tired.)
- Not doing homework. (Bad grades equal loss of privileges and a visit from the Homework Nazi.)
Let Them Get Hurt
This is hard me and for most parents. When someone bullies or takes advantage of my child my Mother Bear comes out. I want to protect my child from this person, but they need to learn to do it themselves. This doesn’t mean that I step back and see what happens. I take an active role in teaching my child problem solving and social skills. They learn to confidently stand up for themselves without violence or retaliation.
Relationships are sacred. No matter how I felt about the people my children hung out with and/or dated, I did not interfere. I would calmly state my concerns and objections, and then but out. Yes, my children were taken advantage of. Yes, my children were hurt. But they learned about people and situations. They learned how to handle it. The only time I stepped in was if my child was in danger of serious physical, emotional or mental harm.
Let Them Talk
At our house we have a “flop spot”. It is a place where I shut my mouth and my children talk. No subject is off-limits. No reprisals or punishments will be met out. No judgments are made. My children talked about school, the opposite sex, sex, bullies, teachers, goals, dreams, how they felt about me, etc. My tongue bled often as I bit down on it.
If there were things that needed to be addressed (and there were) we would make an appointment to discuss it at a later time. This gave us both time to think it through and get hold of our emotions. When it came time to address these issues, it was done in a different location so that the “flop spot” would always feel safe.
While this was hard on me sometimes, it was also very rewarding. My children feel free to bring me their troubles and know that I will listen and not judge them. They know that they are loved, no matter what. The know that I will always be there for them.
What was my reward? I learned more about my children as individuals. I discovered what made them happy, sad, angry and frustrated. I was able to tell them how wonderful they are. They allow me to be and integral part of their lives. After they were done being mad at me of course.
Life Lessons Learned
There are many lessons that we are required to learn in life: tolerance, kindness, service, selflessness, forgiveness, self-control, self motivation, etc. These lessons aren’t necessarily learned but nurtured and encouraged. They are easier to learn when a child is small and they come more naturally.
Life is not handed to us on a silver platter. Life is hard and requires work. Anything worth having is worth working for. We never really fail if we learn from the experience. We only fail if we quit. If we teach our children not to fear failure, they will go on to do many great and wonderful things.
Why would we deny them that?