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A teacher’s plea: “Parents, please allow children to fail”

A teacher’s plea: “Parents, please allow children to fail”

Our guest today is a teacher who has become increasingly frustrated with how quickly parents swoop in to save their fledglings. She has a very clear message: we must allow children to fail, or we are doing them a big disservice.

This generation of parents would like to believe they love their kids more fiercely than any other generation before them. The success of their offspring is proof of that love. Any blunder is considered an indicator of a failure to parent well. 

Sacrifice is just a part of modern parenting. Bending over backwards to ensure that childhood is magical and carefree – and that their offspring receive nothing but positive reinforcement – is part of the package. Successes are collected and celebrated in some misguided notion that this will result in a generation of healthier, happier adults.

Crippled by success

I have been working with children and their families for many years, and I know the opposite to be true. We are currently raising a generation more fearful, more anxious, more unsure than ever before. The reason? I’d speculate that it’s because they have never really tasted failure. Failure provides benefits that can’t be gained any other way. 

We are destined to make mistakes, and privileged to learn from them.

Along with many other educators and coaches around the world, I want you to know that when you step in and save your child from every misstep, and never allow them to fail, you shortchange them. You think you are protecting them, but you are actually disadvantaging them.

“Mistakes are the essence of learning‘” says Mandie Sheanv, a Lecturer at the School of Education, Edith Cowan University, in her article for The Conversation. “If failure is held as a sign of incompetence and something to be avoided (rather than a normal thing), children will start to avoid the challenges necessary for learning.”

Failure helps kids win

Remember that old Irish adage, “I wish you enough rain to enjoy the sunshine”? Without failure, success is just life. And when success is life, then failure can be fatal. When you deny your kids the chance to rise from the ashes of defeat, you only allow them to see part of what it means to be human.

Please, I beg of you, allow children to fail. In fact, allow them to sometimes fail in a spectacular fashion. They will soon know your love is not conditional on their success.

When success is life, then failure can be fatal.

Don’t excuse or explain your child’s poor behaviour. Accept it. Let them learn from it – it’s a valuable part of growing up. As humans, we are intrinsically flawed. We are destined to make mistakes, and privileged to learn from them.

Read this one too: Parenting teens: ‘I was part of the problem’

No judgement here

We know that your children are not an extension of you, they have agency in the world and make their own decisions. We don’t hold you accountable for their actions. We know that you want what’s best for them, we do too!

When an educator or coach disciplines your child, consider backing us! Please don’t take our criticism personally. Instead, make it an opportunity to tell your children that while they will occasionally do the wrong thing, there is dignity in admitting mistakes and making things right. Praise kids for their honesty and help them to make a plan to do better next time.

Show pride in your children’s courage, in their humility, in their very humanity… and watch them grow into confident, resilient, and caring human beings.

Feature image by Priscilla Du Preez; 2 by Sean McAuliffe

A teacher's plea - we must allow kids to fail