of Kings River & Eagle Springs

Failure Is an Option

Posted on 08-18-2016

Every great story is a story about failure. Every human has experienced great failures. Children are no exception. They are just tinier versions of adult humans. This isn’t a problem, though, because failure is important to their lives.

In an article from Lifehack, psychologists have determined ten common threads of successful parents, and one of them is, of course, letting your children fail. “And while this may sound counter-intuitive,” the article says, linking an article from Quartz, “research shows that more is gleaned from failure than success.”

Think about your favorite book or movie. Batman failed to kill Bane the first time around. In Jaws, people got eaten. Luke Skywalker lost his hand, but he came back, and was more resilient the next time. Maybe your child is like Luke Skywalker. Maybe she’s like Princess Leia. Either way, every main character fails and returns stronger and more determined.

From Misery to Mastery

The article from Quartz mentions this example from a psychologist, “who puts pairs of mothers and children in a room and videotapes them as they play. Grolnick then labels the mothers as ‘controlling’ or ‘autonomy-supportive,’ meaning the moms let the kids figure things out on their own.” The psychologist then placed the children back into the room alone to perform a task. “The results were ‘striking,’” the article says. “The children who had controlling mothers gave up when faced with a task they could not master. The others did not.”

In the book The Gift of Failure, author Jessica Lahey reminds us that “overparenting has the potential to ruin a child’s confidence and undermine their education.” By shielding children from failure, she learned that her middle-school students “wilted in the face of challenge,” Quartz says. That’s when she realized that “we seem to be more worried about raising happy children than competent or autonomous ones.”

Failure Is Good for Us

No one likes to fail. It isn’t a pleasant thing. Sometimes, though, it’s the best thing for us. It’s what we need. It’s what children need. They need to learn how to deal with failure so they can learn how to deal with success. It’s humbling, strengthening, and, ultimately, encouraging, both for them and for us.

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