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Let Your Children Fail

Posted on 08-18-2016

Parents weren’t given playbooks with the birth of their children. No one showed up to the hospital or the adoption agency with a stack of paper, saying, “Sir, Madam, here are your instructions.” And, raising children isn’t easy like building an IKEA desk—actually those are kind of hard to build. The point is that you are going to fail. That’s okay. We all do.

Children are going to fail too. They may even fail more than you do. That’s okay. That’s what children are supposed to do. They are learning and exploring and trying new things. (The sad part of life is that we often outgrow this stage! but that’s another blog post…)

In an article from Lifehack, psychologists have determined ten common threads of successful parents, and one of them is, of course, letting your children fail. “And while this may sound counter-intuitive,” the article says, linking an article from Quartz, “research shows that more is gleaned from failure than success.”

Learning from Failure

We have all experienced failure. Sometimes it’s been a minor failure—like you showed up to the school at 6:30 when you were supposed to be there at 5:30. It happens. Sometimes it’s been a major failure—like you forgot your child was even at the school. That happens too.

Children—who are, of course, tinier versions of us—have the same kinds of failures, and if we eliminate all risks from their lives, they are never going to learn how to overcome these challenges. If we never experience the despair of defeat, we would never learn the joy of victory.

In the book The Gift of Failure, author Jessica Lahey reminds us that “overparenting has the potential to ruin a child’s confidence and undermine their education.” By shielding children from failure, she learned that her middle-school students “wilted in the face of challenge,” Quartz says. That’s when she realized that “we seem to be more worried about raising happy children than competent or autonomous ones.”

Started from the Bottom

Think back to your first real failure. What was that experience like? What did you learn? Would you have done it all over again? Some people say that, if they could go back and do things over, they wouldn’t want to change anything about their lives. They learned from their mistakes and it has made them who they are.

Failure is part of being human. We are limited in what we can do. We get sick, or anxious, or sad. We also get happy, though, and the reason we get happy is that we know what it’s like to be sad. We know what it’s like to fail. So, let your kids fail from time to time. See if they can work out their problems. And when they fail—and they will—tell them you love them. Failure can be good, so don’t be afraid of it.

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