My oldest turned twelve in February. As you can imagine, we are getting into the stage of childhood that rivals any Marvel movie battle. I am just a mom trying to help, and he is a middler schooler trying to create his own way. I try to remind him of his homework and wearing his coat and ask him if he brushed his teeth. etc. He rolls his eyes each time and argues with me; so on his birthday I decided it’s time he take on more responsibilities, even if it means letting him fail.
I have to let him be responsible for something, or I’m really doing him a disservice. I have to let go, just a little bit.
I have to let him FAIL.
Yes, my fellow parents, we MUST to let our kids fail. We have to stand by and watch them fall down, get back up, fall down again, get kicked while they’re down, and get back up. Rinse and repeat. I know…it makes my stomach turn too. Our maternal nature just wants to protect our babies, even when they aren’t really babies anymore. We want to buffer them from the world. I mean, we are their moms! Why wouldn’t we?
Seems pretty logical: Mom = Protect child at all costs. Right?
As much as we hate to think about it, our babies will leave us one day. And they will gladly ride off into adulthood leaving us behind, as they should. As their parents, though, it is our job to teach them how to be respectful, brave, and independent adults. And the only way to learn this is to fail, repeatedly, and still carry on with their emotional health in tact.
We can help them learn this while they are young. Here are FIVE simply ways to teach your kids it’s okay to fail, and how to be stronger from it:
- Let them see YOU fail and own it
- Explain that nothing has gone wrong, and failure is a part of life
- Tell them we all make mistakes, and it’s okay, but there will be good and bad consequences for our actions
- When they make a mistake (e.g. spill the milk, break a glass, write on the walls, etc.)
- Hold back your anger
- Look at the mess, look at them, and then shrug
- Tell them something like, “You spilled the milk, now clean it up.” No drama; just the fact and the instructions
- When they see you aren’t furious (it was a mistake, after all), they are less likely to create a negative emotional connection (“I must be stupid,” “I’m a loser,” etc.) between themselves and spilling the milk
- If they forget something
- We all forget from time to time. It’s no big deal, but let them deal with the consequences
- If it becomes a habit, help them come up with a plan to make sure it doesn’t keep happening
- When they lose a game, receive a poor grade, or fight with a friend, ask them:
- What went well?
- What did they learn from the situation? (You may have to help younger ones with this)
- What didn’t go well?
- What can they do differently and how can they improve next time?
- If they get upset at themselves
- Let them feel awful if they want to feel awful
- Don’t try to flip it to positive right away…it’s okay and normal to feel crappy when sad things happen
- Help them put their emotions into words (“That is very frustrating,” “I can see you are sad things turned out that way,” etc.)
- Resist the urge to coddle and instead allow them the opportunity to process failure and pain
Teaching kids how to fail not only helps them become more emotionally healthy humans, it also give them valuable tools on how to deal with life! The hardest part of this journey is how YOU, the parent, will feel letting them fail, so always remember (because these thoughts WILL come up):
- You are not a bad parent
- You are not unloving
- You will not damage your children by letting them feel pain and failure
- They will still love you
You are doing your kids a huge SERVICE.
Teaching kids how to fail is one of the most loving things we can do for their future.
And they will thank you one day, I promise!