In honor of the start of a new and sometimes painful school year, here are my top 10 reasons why standing by and watching your child fail, without offering help, can be a good thing.
Even the possibility of failure is anxiety provoking.
Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could just do everything right the first time?
Need me to do that radio interview? No problem–bring it on! I’m not scared of that microphone, and the questions for which I might not know the answers, and the fact that I might sound like an idiot or give someone the wrong information… cue the heart racing, chest clutching, palm dampening anxiety.
If you haven’t experienced the fear of failure you haven’t pushed past your known limits and tried, and without trying you will leave possibilities on the table.
We want our children to catch their dreams, so when it is safe, and when failure does not have lifelong consequences, we need to let them try.
It is hard to sit back and watch our children fail–yet failure is good, and essential to success. Below are ten things to think about as you stand aside and watch your child drop that ball, and learn lessons the hard way–through personal experience with bruised knees and lost friendships:
- Failure is on the job training–a learning experience in what does not work and what not to do. Fail that test? Next time they will study.
- Failure is an arrogance tamer. Arrogance will not attract true friends.
- Failure teaches empathy. Empathy does attract true friends.
- Failure is proof that your child is trying. Good to know they got off that couch, right?
- Failure gives us direction. If we are lost, we look at a map; failure draws the route on that map. If our child was terrible at hitting or catching a ball, but loved running the bases? Maybe we should sign him or her up for track. Failure gives us a better idea of who we are and what we are actually good at.
- Projects are more likely to succeed if preceded by a series of failures. All those errors make us more careful, so we pay attention and catch mistakes before they happen instead of pushing through and assuming all will go well.
- Life’s hardest, most important lessons can only be learned through failure. People truly do “not know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.”
- Lessons learned through failure stick. We joke about how our children always have to learn things the hard way, but such is human nature. We can give them our knowledge and experience, but it will never be as memorable as a moment of abject embarrassment in front of their classmates.
- Success feels so much better after failures. ‘Nuf said.
- Experience teaches that failure is not fatal. John Sinclair said “failure is a bruise, not a tattoo.” It’s good to have learned in childhood that you really can try again, and perhaps succeed. Failure is not permanent until you give up and shut that door.
It is better that they learn these lessons in childhood while you are still there to catch them when they fall. Break out your box of bandaids, security, and absolute love and acceptance. Even though they might not make the team, they know that you will love them anyway and they will be secure enough to try again.
Every single time your children fail, they have overcome fear to try, and how amazing is that? Even if they have not succeeded at acing that interview, they have succeeded at beating fear to give it their best. Their dreams await.
Very good insight. I remember fighting the temptation to “help” my kids. It’s especially important to allow them to learn these lessons PRIOR to high school when the impact of GPA and the quest for scholarships has little meaning.
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Thanks! It is so hard, when all you want to do is protect them.
Very informatic post for all parents. Thanks, Dr. Lovlie for sharing your tips.