Allowing My Kid to Fail Taught Him How to Succeed

If there’s anything I avoid and generally avoid pretty well, it’s failure.

It’s not that I never fail (I wish), it’s more like I’m so afraid to fail that I rarely try things that involve the potential to fail. That’s some kind of living, Mommyfriend! Don’t I know it, friends.

So with all my practice not failing, it’s understandable that I’d have a hard time allowing my kids to fail. I know failure is a part of life, a big huge-no avoiding it-you better get used to it sort of life thing, but I struggle. I want to help my kids when I can, and if that means cushioning the blow of soul-crushing failure, I want to be able to do that. But at what cost?

Since the beginning of Boy Wonder’s academic career, I’ve been a huge support that somehow transformed into a crutch as the academics became more challenging and the expectations soared. He relied on me to keep him organized, teach him when he didn’t pay attention in class, force him to study for upcoming exams, and generally make sure he was on the right path. I called fellow parents when I didn’t understand assignments, swooped in to save him more often than I should have, and ultimately, all my “help” hurt our relationship.

Last year when Boy Wonder’s attitude toward schoolwork reached an all time low and his attitude toward me reached an all time high, I bowed out of academic enablement.

It was time for Boy Wonder to sink or swim and my husband made it very clear to both of us that there would be no lifeboat. I’d been enabling him, protecting him, and in far too many ways, robbing him of life lessons pertaining to accountability, time management, organization, and yes, failure.

I knew this was something I needed to do. I’d known it for a long time. But as the days wore on and Boy Wonder’s frustration mounted with every declining grade he brought home, my resolve began to weaken. I wanted to rush in. I didn’t want his grades to get so bad there’d be no hope for recovery. I wanted him to ask for help.

Just when his grades seemed irreparable, something inside him changed. He began to pay attention in class, do his homework without anyone telling him to, even double-checking his work. By golly, he began to care.

His attitude toward me began to change too. No longer was he angry and filled with self-pity, he was prideful, positive, and more confident than I’d ever seen him. In May last year he became Student of the Month, and ended the 4th grade on the honor roll.

Failure, what a clever and fickle beast you are. As much as I’ve loathed the pain of your existence in everything from academics to profession, and even love, you’ve taught me more than success ever has.

I realize now that denying my kids the opportunity to look up in the wake of grave personal failure is shamefully unfair. May my children’s failures be painful yet quick, adequate in number, and always deserving of a brighter tomorrow.

Have you ever stood back and allowed your kid to fail?

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Article Posted 3 years Ago
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