This School Year, I Am Hoping My Kids Will Fail
It's a strange thing to say that I am hopeful that my kids will fail and not just once, but a few times this year. It goes against what we are supposed to want as parents -- but it turns out that for our kids to succeed, they have to learn to fail.
This article in the Globe and Mail this weekend was a Q & A with author Paul Trough about the need for kids to be truly challenged, because failing and recovering from these challenges is what gives kids -- and adults-- what they need to become successful. The article (and I'm sure the book) is very interesting and also touches on the importance of attachment at infancy and the idea of grit.
Psychologist Alex Russel writes in his book, Drop the Worry Ball (another really good read), that kids need painful, non-catastrophic failure to learn how to cope in the world. He says we need to embrace failing as learning, not as parental incompetence.
Dr. Russell gives the example of watching your kid climb the jungle gym at the playground. You sit on the park bench and you watch your child climb to the top, maybe they have a few false starts, but eventually they reach the top. They turn and wave and say "Look at me!" and you do look, and you say "Look at you!".
That's your job, even when they have outgrown the jungle gym - to parent from the bench. Dr. Russell admits that it's not easy to stop back and relinquish being the boss:
"You will have to learn to accept that kids are completely capable of worrying for themselves, that failure is an essential learning experience, and that sometimes it's better to stand back and say little or nothing because watching often more powerful than acting."
Sounds awful doesn't it? Painful, non-castastrophic failure. It means letting your kids make a bad choice like not studying for a test or forgetting their lunch. Dr. Russell reminds us that we wouldn't want our kids to go through their childhoods without some bruises and skinned knees. But once the kids grow out of the skinned knee age group, we jump in at every turn making sure they don't get hurt.
We all love to criticize helicopter parents, but the truth is there is a little helicopter pilot in each of us. It's not easy to let our kids fall down, to make mistakes, to make bad decisions and to get emotional bruises and bumps.
But letting them fail means sitting on the bench and watching them climb the jungle gym --metaphorical or real, and saying; "Look at you!"
Want more chaos? Last year, I exposed the truth about school lunches. And no, I failed at my challenge to myself.