Mama, I know what you’re thinking. “What do you mean? You want your kids to fail?” Let me explain… I allow them to make low-stakes (safe), age-appropriate mistakes that do not have a huge impact on their daily lives.
The mama bear in me wants their lives to be smooth and failure-free. Thing is, I wouldn’t be teaching them anything by trying to protect them from failures at every turn. I know I wouldn’t be doing them any favors in life, either.
When they do make those inevitable mistakes, there are natural consequences. Sure, it would take less effort to remind them to complete their homework, pack their ballet and swim bags or clear out their school cubbies at the end of the day. But they also wouldn’t feel responsible for taking charge of their actions or things if I did things for them all.the.time.
I can’t tell you how many times my oldest has had a minor freakout about not finishing her homework when I started scaling back on trying to protect her so much from preventable failure. I bite my lip, smile and stop myself from offering help. By the end of the car ride to school, she almost always comes up with solutions on her own— “I’ll tell the teacher I forgot (taking responsibility!) and promise to have it done by the following day (problem solving!).”
I have endless tales of forgotten ballet shoes, goggles or precious lovies and guess what—we all survived (even the preschool lovie crisis when my youngest forgot her best buddies over a long weekend!).
I’m playing the low stakes, high impact game.
Still, it’s not easy to see your child fail. Wiping away those preventable crocodile tears tugs at my heartstrings every time.
I have to remind myself that consequences are gifts in disguise, though, not a dereliction of my motherly ‘duty’ to protect my children from challenges.
There are days when I have to stop myself from trying to overprotect them with every ounce of my being. In those moments, I remind myself to step back and envision who I want my girls to become—resourceful, confident, independent and competent adults.
I have to remind myself that I learned some of the most important lessons in my life by making mistakes.
I was not only allowed to fail, but was held responsible for my actions and challenged to fix whatever I broke.
I not only learned how to cope with setback and failure, but I also got a lesson (or a few hundred) in problem-solving and perseverance.
I have to remind myself that my girls need to know it’s okay to make mistakes as long as they own up to those failures and learn from them. They will only become more resilient and resourceful by failing.
And so far so good—they are both very comfortable with making mistakes (sometimes a little too comfortable!). We’re still working on the ‘what we’ve learned and what we’d do differently next time’ concepts, but hey, one step at a time… For now I revel in the fact that I am doing what I can to teach them that making mistakes is okay.
So do I want them to fail? No. Absolutely not. Do I understand that they MUST fail in order to develop vital skills to succeed in life? Yes. With a heavy heart at times, but positively, YES.