How Our Kids Win...By Losing
During a phone conference with a parent about a poor grade, the exasperated parent exclaimed, "Well, his tutor will be very disappointed HER essay got a poor grade." I thought I misheard until my colleagues told me it was common knowledge that this tutor wrote papers for students. Parents plagiarizing papers for kids, asking teachers to give them daily updates on 17 year old honors students, running forgotten lunches over to school, and demanding grade inflation all trace back to a fear of allowing kids to fail.
The instinct to protect our kids from failure is understandable. We've created this monster with our grades-driven schools and our success-focused culture. We want to set our kids up for success.
Yet, without risk there is no reward. Self-esteem comes from genuine effort and success, not from artificially protecting kids from failure. And it is better for a child to learn and grow from a small mistake now than to continue making costlier, life-altering mistakes down the line.
- Let Them Lose: Deborah Tillman, America's Supernanny says we should let our kids lose. Hear her thoughts on Winning, Losing, and Setting Realistic Expectations.
- Focus on Effort: Rather than rewarding winning, recognize effort and growth.
- Emphasize Teamwork: In most of life, we win or lose together with a team--of athletes, of co-workers, or families. Focus on cooperative games and projects that emphasize process over results.
- Encourage Accountability: When we come to the rescue, we are missing the chance to give kids tools to fix their own problems. If your child forgets his homework/lunch/equipment, let him deal with the consequences and then help him brainstorm ways he can make sure that never happens again.
When children don't fail, they don't learn. We learn more from our mistakes than our successes. As Thomas Edison allegedly said, "I have not failed 700 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work." When we do not let our children fail, we rob them of the opportunity to discover that way that will work.