Letting Your Child Fail Helps Them Find SuccessSep 25, 2015
Let your kid fail this year.
I know—this isn’t exactly what every parent wants to hear at the start of another brand spanking new school year, but I’m totally serious over here. If you want your kid to succeed in life (and of course you want them to succeed), failure is a completely necessary step towards an incredibly important skill: resilience.
Allowing failure probably comes as a shock to a lot of parents and people. After all, our instincts tell us to do everything in our power to protect them. To save them from falling. And to pick them up when they do fall. Isn’t that Rule No. 1 in the Parent’s Handbook?
But we’ve all finished off our child’s project. It’s kind and helpful, and like I’ve been told in the past, it’s a parent’s job to “bail out” their kids. That said, every save from us is a missed lesson. I’m not my child’s friend. (He’s got plenty of those.) I’m his teacher, in the same way that he’s mine.
As silly as it sounds, these days, I have to nearly physically restrain myself from waking up my teenager for school. The minutes tick closer to the time he needs to leave, and my anxiety sets in. Obviously, my teen couldn’t care less. While I’m running through thoughts of nudging, poking, knocking or—eventually—massively body shaking him awake, he’s soundly sleeping, not worrying in the slightest about the inevitable late slip. But if I wake him up every day, he’ll never set an alarm. He’ll think mommy is going to save his ass, so he can sleep away the day. He’ll think he doesn’t need to be accountable, and life is good and easy.
Good is great, but easy? Easy is what I don’t want for him while he’s still under my roof. I want resilience. I want my brave boy to be able to bounce back when life throws toughness his way, because it will throw toughness. Resiliency won’t develop if I’m constantly banging down the door. It’s better if he has a fully-stocked proverbial toolbox when he leaves home, and that’s the mantra that saves me from constantly saving him.
And I’m not alone in this belief. In her book, the Gift of Failure, Jessica Lahey talks about the importance of letting go so your kids can succeed. There’s a beautiful conversation she has with my mentor, Jonathan Fields, right here if you want to dive into this more. Jonathan says “When we kill any possibility for failure, we also kill any possibility of confidence, discovery, self-reliance and growth, all critical underpinnings of a life well-lived”. Consider my chord officially struck.
Trust me. I know that letting your child fail isn’t a remotely easy feat. It can be worrisome at its best, and unbearable at its worst. Heck, oftentimes it’s our own anxiety and fears that color how we interact with our kids. Calming our own nerves and centering ourselves is the important key ingredient that guides us to better decisions so we can better guide our children. Just as an aside, engaging in a grounding practice (like meditation) really helps make that happen.
And the next time you want to lend a hand to your child, first ask yourself this: Will this serve him, or serve me? And then listen to your heart, letting its message help you make your decision.