One of the most painful things we do as parents is watch our child fail. We see their struggle. We hurt for them, and all to often, we step in and interfere to save the day.
Is it really saving the day, or is it simple pushing off the consequence, stuffing it in a dark closet of unpleasant outcomes, hoping that they don’t all come crashing down on us later?
The Parent Superhero Complex
Do we dash to the school to give them the backpack or lunch they forgot? Do we try to interfere when they got a bad grade that probably deserved, but aren’t happy with? Do we take them out of the sport they grew bored of after a few weeks, because they didn’t immediately succeed?
Do we tell them they were just as good as the person who won, when they didn’t get first prize? Do we tie their shoes, because it’s taking them too long?
Instead of protecting our children from failure, we should be embracing it. Failure should be an accepted, expected, even celebrated part of their day.
Failure is Good
Failure is the billboard for movement. It is the precursor of change. In essence, it shows life, that we are growing, evolving human beings. If we aren’t failing, what are we doing? Probably not much.
Failure is an integral part of our every day. It can be as small as getting the shoes on the wrong feet to not making the school musical.
Failure isn’t pleasant, but it is critical.
In the maze of life, failure is the wall at the end of a wrong turn. If it didn’t stop us, how long would we continue in the wrong direction?
Instead, we learn. We learn what didn’t work, so we can try again. We learn what our weaknesses are, so we can strengthen them. We learn what pathways didn’t work for us, leading us to the direction we truly want our lives to take. Because of failure, we can make corrections.
By taking away our children’s failures, we cripple them. We remove their reality, the gravity of both consequence and their basic humanity. Without that gravity, they are groundless.
Then when they do fail, as they inevitably will, the fall is so much harder, because they have no tolerance for it. They do not know how to use it.
Embrace Failure and Thrive
Removing failure as an option for our children is to strip them of their opportunity for strength.
Instead, we should help them recognize failure for what it is, a tool, something they can use to build on and grow from.
Failure is as inevitable as it is helpful. It only destroys us if we let it stop and break us. We need to help our children see failure as an anticipated, regular part of their process.
If they get a math problem wrong, it is not the end. Erase it, and try again.
If they don’t make the team, go back home and keep working. Make adjustments, and come back more powerful the next year.
If they forgot their backpack, what organizational change can they make so that they can’t miss it the next time.
Instead of protecting our children from failure, we should be asking them, “Have you failed at something yet today?” If the answer is no, then we should ask, “Why not?”
We should encourage them to try new things, to keep trying when things get hard, and to accept failure with grace. It is not the end. It is merely a part of their process to becoming strong, powerful, well adjusted human beings.