I try very hard to let my kids fail so they will learn to cope with life’s difficulties with grace. I hope you try to do so too. When I say “try”, it’s because I am well aware how difficult it is to stand back while your child struggles. Hard as it is, it’s important; in real life there are winners and losers. Not everyone gets a trophy.
We all want our kids to be resilient. We also want them to have happy wonderful perfect lives. These two desires may conflict. I understand It’s heartbreaking to see your child unhappy and natural that as a parent you want to solve the problem, whatever it is. Truthfully though, those of us who intervene extensively where we probably shouldn’t are not doing our kids any favors.
My parents were not nearly as involved in my life growing up as I am with my children. Part of that is because most of us today are not comfortable allowing our kids to roam the neighborhood after school and on the weekend. For safety reasons, we schedule playdates. We control and monitor friends, school and activities.
That doesn’t mean my parents didn’t intervene when necessary. If I needed extra help with my studies, they made sure I got it. If I had a problem, they helped me work toward a solution. However, they did not make excuses for my bad behavior or blame a teacher if I did badly on a test.
What they did do is teach me to work hard, and more often than not, that hard work paid off. But not always. I was completely devastated when I did not make the gymnastics team the first time I tried. My parent’s suggested I ask the coach what I could do to improve to increase my chances of making the team the following year. I followed every suggestion, but unfortunately was not chosen then either. I asked them to call the coach to explain how much effort I had put into practicing. They refused, which I’m guessing was much harder for them than I realized. Instead they explained to me that every failure is one step closer to success, and that I needed to make a choice whether to continue to work and try again, or explore other opportunities that might be a better fit for me.
At the time I felt my parents were unsupportive. Miraculously, I was not emotionally crippled for life. I moved on. Now that I have kids, I understand their behavior and wish I had more of their wisdom and strength. Children grow into confident and successful adults if allowed to experience the ups and downs of life without interfering.
Below are three of the best lessons your child will learn if allowed to face natural consequences.
Creative Problem-Solving Skills
Kids are forced to cope with their struggles when we don’t step in to solve their proble
ms. Give your child the opportunity to try, try again by resisting the urge to run interference.
Many parents seem to fear raising a quitter. Yes, of course we all want our kids to follow through and finish what they start. Sometimes this desire translates into putting pressure on our kids. When children sense their success and winning is important to us, they fear failure and may stop trying. Help your child learn everyone fails sometimes, and that the experience can prove to be a good lesson. They are more likely to persevere and work through the tough times if they know it’s ok not to always be successful. They will also be more likely to engage in healthy risk-taking in the future.
Life isn’t fair, and it isn’t easy. If you don’t allow your kids to fail, they won’t learn how to cope with frustration, negativity and bad outcomes. Teach them to work through the difficulties independently so they can tackle obstacles they encounter as adults.