A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

Can Your Child Really Learn From Failure?

When my oldest son was in second grade, he was assigned a dinosaur diorama project. So I found an old shoe box and other assorted materials and let him build away. The result was a reasonable facsimile of prehistoric times – for an eight-year-old, that is.


Several weeks later, I attended a parent-teacher conference and noticed the projects on display. Most were exceptional – meticulous, detailed, beautifully designed. In other words, not the work of second-grade children. When I asked if other parents, perhaps, had played a role, the teacher just sighed. Yes, most of the parents completed the projects along with their kids… or even for their children. She had come to expect this.

I was stunned. Partly by my own naivete, but mostly by the extent of parental involvement. Why was it so critical that their children excel – even on such a relatively minor project?

Much has been written about the importance of building resilience in children, allowing them to fail, and knowing when to stand back and let them struggle. Jessica Lahey, for example, describes parents who insist that their children can do no wrong and who rescue them from any sign of a struggle. Other commentaries also highlight the benefits of learning from failure, struggling with challenging work, and building resilience.

Experience with failure can cause emotional pain, especially if it is viewed as shameful, as a generalized sign of incompetence, or a signal that nothing will improve. Too many adults have been traumatized or shamed by failures of their own, and hope to shield their children from hurt. Yet, if failure is framed as a normal part of growth and development, and as an opportunity for learning and self-awareness, its negative effects are reduced.

As parents, we can help children learn that failure is a normal part of life – it happens to all of us: when we burn the waffles, when we forget our friend’s birthday, or even when we lose an account at work. We can role model how to accept these failures without shame, learn from them, and make changes so that we behave differently in the future.

We can show our children that we are not crushed by failure, even if we feel frustrated or disappointed. We can demonstrate how to acknowledge our role in situations, how to sort out what needs to change, and when to ask for assistance if we can’t solve the problem ourselves.

We can encourage healthy independence in our children. While headlines comparing “helicopter” and “free-range” parenting make good press, most parents rarely fall into these extreme camps. Most choose a middle ground and learn what battles to pick, when to intervene, and that some bumps along the way will help children build resilience and confidence. Finding that balance is never easy, but here are several points to keep in mind:

Respect their feelings

First, acknowledge their pain. This does not mean coddling, dwelling on the negative, or enabling setbacks. It is essential to let your children know you understand and appreciate their suffering. As Brene Brown has noted, the recent cultural and media focus on grit and the redemptive power of failure overlook, “the large swaths of darkness and struggle preceding it.”

We cannot and should not dismiss or minimize our children’s pain in response to any failure experience, regardless of how small it might seem to us. Let them know you understand – and that you will help them move through it and past it.

Reframe failure

Help your child reframe the concept of failure. Unfortunately, failure is a big word that carries a powerful punch. We can help our children learn to distinguish between variations on this theme. There are tiny failures – like forgetting to bring lunch to school, medium-sized failures – not finishing an essay on time, and big ones – like failing an entire course. Some sting more than others, but all are opportunities for growth. When failure is viewed as a normal part of life and as an opportunity for learning, it becomes less overwhelming, easier to tackle, and carries less of the shame and embarrassment most associate with it.

Teach coping strategies

Identify the skills your child needs so that failure experiences do not seem as overwhelming. Does he lack confidence? Does she respond to situations in a rigid manner? Is he impulsive and quick to react? Does she worry and “catastrophize” about the future? You can help your child learn to comfort, soothe, distract, seek support, and appropriately discharge feelings.

Resilience arises from competence, and these life skills will help your child develop the confidence and flexibility needed when disappointment strikes. There are many self-help books, websites, and apps available that offer coping strategies. If your child has difficulty acquiring these skills, if you need additional support with implementing them, or if your child is emotionally distressed, working with a licensed mental health professional may be necessary.

Put it in perspective

Your child’s independence and ability to be self-sufficient are the ultimate goals. Keeping this in perspective will help guide you when choices get tough. This is not a “hands-off” policy. Rather, the goal is to help your child achieve independence by setting up situations that will challenge her, creating expectations for success as opposed to perfection, and refusing to “rescue” her from her responsibilities.  

You can encourage your child to take academic risks, helping him to appreciate that achievements are more meaningful when they initially seemed out of reach. You can promote the importance of ethics, integrity, cooperation with peers, and taking responsibility for his role in the classroom. Let him know that actions speak more about character than his accomplishments, and that how one behaves is more important than being the best.

Rather than rescuing our children from the latest setback, we serve them well when we encourage and support their independent efforts to tackle their problems. While this often forces us to hold our breath and sit with our own fears as we watch them struggle, it is just one of many challenges we endure as parents. But as long as they are on the path toward growth and development, learning from experience is one of the best opportunities we can provide.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

Subscribe to get inspiration and super helpful ideas to rock your #momlife. Motherhood looks amazing on you.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

Finding the person you want to spend your life with is never easy, but when you're a parent, there's an extra layer of consideration. You're not just choosing the person you will spend lazy Sundays (and hurried weekday mornings) with—you're choosing the person your children will spend them with, too.

And when that person has children of their own, things get even more complicated. Blending two families isn't easy, but it can be beautiful, as Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez prove.

Each half of this power couple has two children each, and they're doing their best to make their relationship work not just for each other, but for those four children, too.

"We love each other and we love our life together," Lopez recently told People. "I was so loving to his kids and he was so loving and accepting of mine, and they embraced each other right away. [It was] 'I get a new bonus brother and sisters to hang out with all the time and it's nice.'"

A Rod agrees, telling People: "Our kids have become best friends and that keeps us both grounded and appreciative."

Here are five ways J Lo and A-Rod are totally #parentinggoals when it comes to balancing the needs of their blended family.

1.They bring the kids together

Lopez and Rodriguez each spend time with their own children, but they also bring all four kids (Lopez shares 10-year-old twins Maximilian and Emme with her ex, Marc Anthony, and Rodriguez shares daughters Ella, 10, and Natasha, 13, with his ex, Cynthia Scurtis) together for fun family outings, like ice cream dates and basketball games.

Research indicates that about 14% of kids in step families don't feel like they belong in their family, and report that their family doesn't have fun together. By bringing the kids together for fun family times, Lopez and Rodriguez are encouraging a sense of family belonging outside the relationship they have with each of the kids individually. Studies suggest an adolescents' sense of family belonging is linked to their overall well-being. So this ice cream date is actually healthy, in a way.

​2. They consider their children's other parents family, too

If their Instagrams are any indication, Rodriguez and Lopez have a great time hanging out with their blended family, but they understand that their children have other family members, too, and they don't mind hanging out with them.

A recent Instagram post proves Rodriguez considers Marc Anthony #famila, and that's how it should be.

Studies show supportive communication between a parent and their ex-partner's new partner is good for the family as a whole. Likewise, when the relationship between a parent and a stepparent is antagonistic, relationships beyond their own stuffer. It's truly better if a parent's co-parent and their current partner can hang.

3. They’re a united front with their co-parents

Rodriguez considers J Lo's ex family, and he also doesn't forget that (despite legal disagreements) his ex-wife plays a big role in his daughter's lives. So he celebrates their big co-parenting moments, like parent-teacher night.

Lopez, too, celebrates the times she and Anthony get together for their twins' big moments, recently telling Kelly Rippa the two are now in a really great place, and basically best friends. "The kids get to spend time with the two of us more together and see us working together," she said."It's just good for the whole family," says Lopez.

4. They make time for each other without the kids

Having all four kids together at once looks like fun, but hanging out with three 10-year-olds and a teen also sounds like it could be a little exhausting. That's why the couple takes time to unwind, without the kids, when they can.

As J Lo wrote in a recent Instagram post, "it's the lil quiet moments that matter the most."

5. They're doing it their way

Back in April Lopez was asked whether or not she and A Rod would be getting married soon (thanks to a Spanish language single "El Anillo," which is Spanish for "The Ring"), she told People, she's not in any rush, despite the song.

"I've done that before. I'm a little bit more grown up now, and I like to let things take their natural course," she said. "I know people are going to say that… we are really kind of good for each other and are really having the best time, and our kids love each other and all that."

[A version of this story was originally published July 12, 2018.]

You might also like:

If you use U by Kotex tampons, you should check your box before your next period, mama.

Regular absorbency U by Kotex Sleek Tampons are being recalled throughout the U.S. and Canada. According to the FDA, defective tampons have been coming apart when people tried to remove them, "in some cases causing users to seek medical attention to remove tampon pieces left in the body."

The FDA notes that there have also been a "small number of reports of infections, vaginal irritation, localized vaginal injury, and other symptoms."

In a statement on its website, U by Kotex explains that the recall is specific to the U by Kotex Sleek Tampons, Regular Absorbency only. The Super Absorbency or Super Plus Absorbency tampons are not part of the recall.

The recall is for specific lots of the Regular Absorbency tampons manufactured between October 7, 2016 and October 16, 2018.

The lot numbers start with NN (or XM, for small, 3 count packages) and can be found near the barcode on the bottom of the box.

To check if your tampons are part of the recall, type your lot number into this form on the U by Kotex site.


The FDA says if you've used the tampons and are experiencing the following you should seek immediate medical attention:

  • vaginal injury (pain, bleeding, or discomfort)
  • vaginal irritation (itching or swelling)
  • urogenital infections (bladder and/or vaginal bacterial and/or yeast infections)
  • hot flashes
  • abdominal pain
  • nausea or vomiting

If you have a package of the recalled tampons you should not use them and should call Kotex's parent company, Kimberly-Clark at 1-888-255-3499. On its website U by Kotex asks consumers not to return the tampons to stores.

You might also like:

I grew up watching the Fresh Prince of Bel Air so pretty much anytime Will Smith pops up on my Facebook feed, I click. (Also, I happen to live near West Philadelphia, so you know, there's a lot of theme song singing. My husband finds me hysterical.)

Anyway...

The last time I clicked on a Will Smith video, he was telling a story about when he went skydiving. He had made the decision to go with his friends, and then spent the whole night and morning leading up to it terrified, envisioning all the things that could go wrong.

When he was finally up in the plane, the guide explained that they would jump on the count of three. "One… two…" except they push you out on "two" because everyone throws their arms out and stops themselves at "three." So before he knew it, he was flying.

And he found it to be absolutely amazing.

He said, "The point of maximum danger is the point of minimum fear. It's bliss. The lesson for me was, why were you scared in your bed the night before? What do you need that fear for? You're nowhere even near the airplane. Everything up to the stepping out, there's actually no reason to be scared. It only just ruins your day… the best things in life [are] on the other side of [fear]."

Motherhood is skydiving.

If someone came up to you one day and said, "Hey. I have this job for you. You are going to grow a human in your body, kind of like it's an alien. And then that human is going to come out of your body—and that process is really intense. And then the human will be really helpless and you will have to turn it into a fully functioning adult with an important place in this world. Okay… go!"

You'd smile politely and walk run away as fast as you could.

Because if you think about it, the idea of doing all of that—motherhoodis pretty terrifying. The amount of responsibility and work is sort of incomprehensible.

The grand scheme of motherhood is scary.

The thing is, though, that the grand scheme of motherhood is actually made up of millions of tiny moments in which you will be a total boss.

Whether it's a jump-out-of-the-plane moment, or a get-the-toddler-out-of-the-car-seat moment, you will face it with bravery.

Remember, being brave isn't the absence of fear, it's being afraid and doing it anyway.

Being brave is taking a pregnancy test—and seeing that it's positive. Or seeing that it's negative, again.

Being brave is waiting for the adoption agency to call you and tell you that she's here.

Being brave is watching your body change in a hundred ways, and lovingly rubbing your belly as it does.

Being brave is giving your body over to the process of bringing your baby into the world—yes, even if you cry, or complain, or cry and complain. You're still brave. Promise.

Being brave is bringing that baby home for the first time. Oh, so much bravery needed for that one.

Being brave is giving that first bath, going to that first pediatrician visit, spending that first full day at home, alone, with the baby,

Being brave is your first day back at work—or making the phone call to tell them you won't actually be coming back at all.

Being brave is ignoring all the noise around you, and parenting your child the way you know is best for your family.

Being brave is letting go of her hands when she takes her first steps.

Being brave is sitting next to her and smiling when you're in the emergency room for croup—and then sobbing when you get home.

Being brave is bringing her to her first day of school—and going home without her.

Being brave is saying "yes" to her first sleepover and "no" to her first car.

Being brave is hugging her the first time her heart breaks, when your heart might possibly hurt even more than hers does.

Being brave is listening quietly when she tells you she plans to "travel the world."

Being brave is bringing her to her first day of college—and going home without her.

Being brave is watching her commit her life to another person, who is not you.

Being brave is watching her become a mother.

And one day, sweet, brave mama, you'll look back and realize that you just jumped out of an airplane—you raised a child.

All of the things that seemed terrifyingly impossible—you just…do them. One at a time. You will wake up every day a little bit braver than the day before. And before you know it, you can look back on any aspect of motherhood and realize that little by little, you just increased your flying altitude.

Things that was seemed daunting are handled with ease. Ideas that once seemed impossible have become your reality one thousand times over.

So yes, motherhood is incredibly scary. But you are incredibly brave.

One... two... jump!

You might also like:

Here at Motherly, we're all in on pregnant mamas. We love all things pregnancy science: from how a woman's body absorbs her baby's cells, and the effect of breastfeeding on postpartum weight loss. We fawn over the latest + greatest in baby names. And we adore a good celeb baby bump picture.

So we're thrilled for Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, royal newlyweds expecting their first child together in the Spring of 2019.

And recently, when the Duchess presented a British Fashion Award to the designer behind her wedding dress (Givenchy designer Clare Waight Keller) we were not thrilled when headlines suggested Markle "showing off" her bump by cradling it during the awards show.

Here's the deal: When media outlets make note of a pregnant woman whose bump is visible, they often report that the woman is out "flaunting" her belly.

PSA: Pregnant women do not "flaunt" their bodies.

They aren't "showing off their baby bumps."

They're not "taking their bellies out for a day on the town."

They're simply women who are pregnant, going about their daily lives.

This might seem like a small point, quibbling about particular words about pregnancy.

But in reality, acting like pregnant women are "flaunting" their bellies reflects a society that sees pregnancy as a sideshow, rather than a natural part of womanhood. It makes pregnant women feel like weirdos, rather than integral bearers of the future of humanity. It tells women, yet again, that their changing bodies are up for public critique. And it implies to women that the natural changes in their bodies are strange, rather than a normal evolution in life.

So yes, Meghan's baby bump is visible. How exciting for her!

She's not 'flaunting it,' proud mama-to-be though she is.

Meghan Markle is simply rocking her life as a modern woman (and royal), and pregnancy looks amazing on her.

[A version of this story was originally published October 24, 2018]

You might also like:

Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.