Is Failure an Option?
As parents we want to think that we’re doing everything we can to help our children but what happens if they start to fail?
Our first instinct as a parent is to not let our children fall, to FAIL. It’s our job to spare them heartache, hurt and yes, even failure. Unfortunately sometimes in order to succeed they have to fail first, right?
That’s the question I’ve been bouncing back and forth. Recent developments have made me take a look at the need for my kids to fail, no matter how hurtful it may be to them. It’s not an ideal situation because I’d love for them to always succeed and as much as I feel bad for letting them fail, I realize that it’s something they have to do.
Help Them Succeed
I can help my children understand the reason for their failure. In this instance it’s Bug and school. He’s becoming a stubborn teenager and though I’d like him to always have glowing grades, I know (and he knows) that he’s really the only one who can change his situation. Before he can succeed though, he has to understand why he’s failing. Talking out the problems he's experiencing can help him understand the importance of what's going on and what is likely to happen if he continues to fail.
Identify the Problem
In Bug’s case, he chose not to do a large assignment. The keyword here is “chose”. It was a decision that he made and because of his decision he is suffering the consequences. It’s not always that cut and dry though. If it’s a school related issue, it’s important to talk to both the child and the teachers to see where there could be problems. If Bug was struggling in some way with learning, this would be a different conversation I’m having with him and his teachers. But he’s bright, just lazy (it’s okay, he knows it and so do I).
Create an Action Plan
Not every failure requires an action plan. However, when it comes to school or even sports and extracurricular activities, having a plan or course of action will help keep children on task and remind them that everything they do has a reason, a result, and a consequence. Even the best action plan won’t always work out the way you want but helping your child stick to it, will teach them that making changes can be necessary for success.
Try, Try, Again
Alright, so even though understanding, identifying the problem and taking action may not work and your child still might fail -- don’t let them get discouraged! Allow them to feel sad for failing when they’ve given their best efforts and then put the ball back in their court. Ask, “What do you want to do now?” They may decide to try again and they may decide to move on. Either response is perfectly fine.
Whatever happens, they have to learn acceptance and be able to acknowledge the outcome and be okay with it. Your job is to help them come to acceptance. Don’t try to change the outcome. That teaches children nothing except that mom and dad can fix their mistakes for them. While that might be true (in some cases), it does little to teach them responsibility or how to make changes in their life and succeed on their own.
Sometimes failure is harder on us than it is on the children. We instinctually protect them whenever possible, but they won’t stay little forever and the world won’t always forgive their mistakes. We can make the transition from child to grown-up a lot easier on them if we guide and not fix.
It’s hard. I know. I’m struggling right now to help Bug along this same path but I don’t want him to be dependent on me forever. I want him to grow his own wings and fly. But in order to do that, he may just have to fall first. I’ll always be there to pick him up if he needs it, but I can never fly or succeed for him.