Should I Let My Child Fail?

At an early age, we read books to our children whose characters fumble, fail, and just can’t seem to get it right. But in the end, those characters figure out a way to make it and see the beauty in their failures. Sometimes their mistakes create something brilliant and extraordinary.

When I look at my parenting style, I naturally allow my children to have those fumbles and times to creatively come up with a new plan to tackle their first failed attempt when are learning to scooter, ride a bike, play sports, or build LEGO sets.

It is not a natural feeling to transfer this same ideology to academics. We want to support our children through all their academic endeavors, and we should. How to best support your child depends on your definition of success. Success for riding a bike is easy to define, pedal and stay up. Now, what are your thoughts about academic success? At first glance, some think success is making an A on a test or completing all of their homework, even if it means lots of support from their parents. Is that success? Maybe.

Now to think out of the “grade” box. Success can be measured by resilience. Resilience is having that ability to fail then the opportunity to figure out how to work through it. If someone is always stepping in for a child once the going gets tough, they aren’t letting the child build resilience. The child isn’t getting the chance to develop the ability to bounce back on their own and figure things out. Finding out that failure is an option makes it a learning experience! Just like when they reconstruct a LEGO tower, they are working to build a different pathway to progress with school challenges too.

So what can you do as a parent? Be a support coach in these situations, rather than a life-saver. You are there to guide them through the challenge while, ultimately, instilling in your child that failure isn’t bad or wrong; it’s an experience and all experiences help us grow. You’ll also gain a clear picture of your child’s abilities and know whether more supports are needed or if they are able to progress with their new resilience.

We have recently read, The Gift of Failure, written by Jessica Lahey. It covers how to parent through all aspects of life (friends, sports, school, etc.) with the mindset of success springs from imperfections. After reading, your definition of failure may change. Happy reading!