Good Parenting: Teaching Kids Through Their Failure

No parent wants to see their child stumble along in life. No parent wants to see their child fail. Much like a coach on a sports team, parents sometimes will watch their child go along in life and, having the advantage of watching from the sidelines, see the mistakes they are making and what consequences lie ahead. We want to rush in and guide them in the way they should do. The difficulty is letting your child go headlong into that mistake as they attempt to spread their wings and fly.

I, being a parent myself, have had a hugely difficult time with watching my kids experience life for themselves with all the mistakes included. I want to protect them. I want to rush in and head them off at the pass before they take another step to dive off of the cliffs of life.

Recently one of my boys failed a class in school for a semester. I was really upset about that. How could this very intelligent child fail? How could my child fail? But he did. I wish I could say that I handled the situation in a manner that allowed open and honest communication, but I did not. Instead I lectured, and I told him how he should not bring home anymore failing grades. My expectation bar is set high and a failure did not meet the standard. How audacious of me!

In the days that passed I thought about the situation. I thought about how I felt when I was chastised so strongly for getting an “F” in a subject or on a test. How unfair I thought it was that my stressors and point of view were not being considered. In looking back I was able to see my mistake and how I could have approached the situation from a positive perspective, and how I will foster nurturing communication should my son fail a class again. I also realized that all I can do is try my best, in any given situation, to encourage my child to ask for help when needed, and to continue to ensure that he keeps up with the things that he needs to do to pass. Nothing more; nothing less. Should he not ask for help or keep up with his studies, then that is his burden to bear. Not mine. And, he will surely have consequences, both at school and home that reflect his decision not to do his studies.

Will kids learn the lessons needed to know to navigate life? Inevitably they will. Some sooner; some later. Will I be able to convey to them the pain they can incur if they stray from the path that will keep them safe? Sometimes yes. Most times no. These are lessons that they need to learn on their own. No matter how difficult it is to watch. I have been learning to accept this both as a dad and a life coach. While I wish every bit of wisdom I give to my children is heeded and taken to heart, I know that it is in their mistakes and failures that they will eventually get the point. I also remind myself that I did/do not always take heed to wisdom given to me the first time it is given. At the same time, nagging a child with wisdom can actually harm your relationship more than helping them to gain any ground.

So, I can –and will– be there for them when they fall and/or call for help. Even if they don’t ask for help in time of need, I can still support them just by letting them know I am there if they need me. In all of this I cannot chastise or ridicule them with the “I told you so’s” and the “Why did you’s?” Launching into a “much needed lecture” is not what’s needed and certainly will not allow them to open up and talk about where they think they went wrong and/or what they could have done differently.

I also accept that in actuality I am raising adults –or future adults– that currently have very little life experience. Children must learn, in whatever way it is that they can, how to navigate life on their own. However, except from doing what I can as a parent to keep them out of harms way while they are on my watch, I can only let them grow into the adults that they will inevitably become. Along the way I hold out hope and keep the faith that they will be alright as I guide them as much as they will let me through my own words and actions.

One thought on “Good Parenting: Teaching Kids Through Their Failure

  • March 12, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    Thanks for this. It seems we missed National Cupcake Day, but I will keep it in mind for next year!

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