Fail: How To Let Your Child Fail

Should you let your child fail? This is a frightening question to ponder for most parents. The concept, alone, flies in the face of common sense for every mother and father. That’s because it’s the instinct of every parent to protect. Not to mention, we yearn to watch our kids flourish in any and all things they attempt! And, for reasons I’ll explore, we often shove our kids in the direction of awards, trophies, and prizes… with our never-ending nudging. Reminding them that they can do better. But, of course, jumping in to save them if, God forbid, there’s a chance they might fail.

Recently, my daughter, Cierra, had an appointment with a therapist in regard to her commitment to a certain sport. I go into great detail about her brave and inspiring story in my recent podcast, How to Know If You Should Give Up Something That’s Part of Your Identity. One of the ways Bret, my husband, and I helped Cierra navigate her journey was through therapy.

After one of her sessions, her therapist told us,

I just want you to know that I saw a young girl the week before. A very similar issue. Her parents brought her in. She’s a competitive gymnast, also in high school, and really wanted to quit gymnastics – even though she had a scholarship. Well, those parents were irate with me because after I did the session with their daughter… she was still very much committed to quitting. See, the parents had come basically to have me talk her back into doing gymnastics. So, they were grossly disappointed. Yet, still, weren’t going to let her quit.

I remember feeling horrible for that young girl.

Let’s get real, shall we? It’s about YOU when you need your child to have any identity: smartest, fastest, prettiest, most talented, etc. You have to recognize that it’s not your life, and it’s not about what people think about you. It’s how your child feels about themselves.

We put a lot of pressure on our kids to follow in our footsteps and to be perfect. We’re not doing them any favors by doing that. Forcing them to believe that there’s something wrong with them if they’re not at a certain weight or if they don’t play that instrument or if they’re not the lead in the play or if they’re not playing whatever sport that you expected them to, and so on.

After one of Cierra’s track meets, I witnessed one of the dads who, the moment his daughter finished racing, sprinted to the finish line. He shook his head aggressively and barked at her, “What happened? What are you doing? Man, why did you give up?

All he’s doing is destroying his daughter.

There’s always the exception, but many times this behavior stems from a deep-seated fear of disappointing our own parents. So, the cycle continues from generation to generation.

My kids know that I don’t care what grades they get. Never did. The values Bret and I have always placed on our kids are:

  1. They understand how to solve problems. Then, help others in regard to that.
  2. Always have a backup plan. Don’t just put all your eggs in one basket – by extension, attach yourself to one identity.
  3. You do you.

Other than that, my kids have already made their mark on the world. I just need it to be their mark, not my mark. Ya feel me?

I hope you’ll do the same. Allow your kids to be individuals. Give them the space to tell you that they don’t love something. Hug your kids and let them know they could never disappoint you – no matter what. Let’s put a little less pressure on our children.

Give them permission to make decisions while, also, informing – to the best of your ability – of the negative consequences that might occur from said decisions. But please allow them to fail. And when they do, provide emotional support. Yet, don’t fix the situation for them. Guide them in figuring out how to deal with the challenge themselves.

As mentioned above, in my hot-off-the-presses podcast – How to Know If You Should Give Up Something That’s Part of Your Identity – I’m able to explore this subject in far greater detail. With Cierra’s story, I’m confident you and your child will find common ground. And, don’t worry, she graciously gave me her consent in the hopes of serving others.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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