Why I Let My Kids Fail

posted in: Large Family | 14

 Why I let my kids fail and why you should too.

Do you guys remember last year when all of my children got parts in the Missoula Children’s Theater play except for Tucker? It inspired me to write the post, Helping Kids Cope with Disappointment. My mama heart wanted so badly to rush in and “fix” things. I wanted to promise him he could do Missoula in the summer, I wanted to plan something special, just for him, I wanted to make him feel better….but I stopped myself from doing anything drastic and over the top. I hugged him and told him I was sorry and I knew he was disappointed. I held myself back so he could learn the lesson of being disappointed and moving on.

And he did. 

Well auditions for this year’s Missoula Children’s Theater were held on Monday and guess who got a large speaking role? Tucker! What a victory after last year and the summer before when his anxiety got the best of him and he was unable to even complete the week of Missoula. Hezekiah also got a large roll, and Avi a smaller one. 

This year Avi is dealing with disappointment in getting a smaller role than she was hoping for. But you know what? She can look back and say, “At least I got a part; last year Tucker didn’t”. And Tucker is able to be compassionate toward Avi and her disappointment, because he knows what it feels like to miss out. 

These life lessons, my friends, are so important! I know as moms we want to step in and fix things. We want our children to have happy, magical childhoods. But sometimes things don’t need to be fixed, because nothing is broken. Sometimes we need to let nature take it’s course. And sometimes our children need to fail. 

If you don’t believe me, research backs me up on this on:

Why Parents Need to Let Their Children Fail

Why It’s Okay to Let Kids Fail: A Guide to Not Overparenting

It’s not all about failure, either. Sometimes it is about success. Jubilee had been pulling in a steady stream of B pluses and A minuses on her math tests when she asked I wanted her to get all A’s. 

(Keep in mind, we are new to school and still learning the ropes as a family)

“Yes. And do you know why? I know you can get A’s you just need to put a little more effort into your work and studying for your tests”. 

Shortly after that, swelling with pride, she brought me a perfect math test. I asked her (I was genuinely interested) what the difference was. 

“Well, I studied for this one”. 

That was all Jubilee. She studied, she worked hard and she succeeded. And you know what? She was proud of herself. Not  proud because she is “smart” but proud because she earned that grade. Working hard and succeeding are so much more valuable to kids than participation awards. 

ABC News does a brilliant job of explaining this in their article, Why You Shouldn’t Tell Your Kids They’re Smart. It’s not that telling your kids they are smart is inherently bad, it is just that it often sends there wrong message. 

So,  yes, I let my children fail. And I also encourage them to work hard and succeed. 

Here are things I won’t do for my children: 

I won’t fill out job or college applications for my kids.

I won’t write essays for them (though I am happy to proof them and offer feedback).

I won’t rush in and fix everything.

I won’t put in more effort than they do.

And here are things I will do:

I will encourage them to work harder when needed.

I will encourage them to take a break when needed. 

I will help them fight and advocate for them when necessary. 

I will offer love and support, no matter the outcome.

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When is the last time you let your child fail? Do you fight the urge to step in and fix everything? I’d love to hear your  thoughts!

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14 Responses

  1. When I was in high school a kid I’d had trouble with all semester wrote a fake newspaper full of terrible, made-up things about me and some other classmates. (It was really robust and well-written, actually. He could have done amazing things with proper channeling of his talents) If that kind of thing happened today I think most parents would have stormed the school walls. Mine said “what do you want to do about it?” And I marched into the office by myself the next day with the ugly bits highlighted and told the secretary I needed to see the principle. I showed the paper to him and calmly demanded that action be taken. And it was. The next year he threatened my life and my parents did some serious storming. They showed me that I could stand up for myself without their help, not because they didn’t want to help, but because I had the power to do it myself and it was a power that was IN me, not from them through me. I didn’t say “my parents said….” I said “I am not going to tolerate this” and an adult in authority respected my concerns. It was very empowering. I also knew that my parents would step in the moment I needed them because that’s exactly what they did when the problem got serious.

    (This was an Internastional school, not at a public school, in case anyone wants to use it as a bad example of public schools. It was a poor kid with a rich, absentee dad and a mom overseas who both left him to be raised by a housekeeper. He was crying out for help and had no one to guide him through life.I often wonder where he is now, 20 years later.)

  2. I think this is important lesson. We as parents do not need to “fix” every situation for our kids. Our children do not need to receive “trophies” for participating. Work Hard!! That is the lesson. I loved this post!

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Yes, it is a lesson that often needs to be re-learned time and time again.

  3. You are such an inspirational mom. What a victory for Tucker to have taken last year’s disappointment and stepped back “on stage” this year! Awesome stuff.

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Thanks so much! One of the hardest things I’ve done is not jump in and “rescue” him or try to “make it up” to him. So glad I didn’t 🙂

  4. I wish my school had set me up to fail once in a while. I rarely had to work for my good grades and as a result I didn’t learn to study hard. I did not, for varying reasons, go to college, but both of my siblings experienced a culture shock, when they actually had to study for the first time.

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      One of my college professors said that straight A high school students often had a more difficult adjustment to university than non-straight A students. She said this was because the other kids were used to having to work hard, and the A students were often used to just sailing through school. I don’t know how accurate that is, but I have never forgotten it.

  5. What a wise post, Renee!
    They do learn so much more when we let them fail and take the responsibility for their actions.
    Mine are both in college now. I wish I’d let them fail and struggle a lot more!!
    Found your post today on SHINE.
    Hope you have a blessed day~
    Melanie

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Thank you for this insight. I think it helps all of us to see the perspective of a mom who is ahead of us on this journey.

  6. I love this and it’s so important that we’re not there “fixing things for our kids”! Their greatest learning experiences will most likely come from failing – failure (especially when supported lovingly) is a wonderful way to learn and grow!

    Thanks for sharing (and for linking up to the #SHINEbloghop).

    Wishing you a lovely day.
    xoxo

  7. I think this is an important lesson to teach our kids. Far too many entitled, clueless adult-children. Thanks for post

  8. Wonderful! I agree kids need to experience failure. Failure is actually not a negative experience, but the best life teacher there is. Failure teaches us how to learn from our mistakes, how to persevere, and how to become resilient. Kids should not be shielded from this enriching experience.

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