Letting them fail

by Emily Evert, NDFB Assistant Corporate Secretary

I was reading an article the other day written by a coach and a line that stuck with me was, “I love you enough to let you fail.” The coach was talking about parents not letting their kids fail and be uncomfortable. Some parents will do everything in their power to make sure their kids don’t feel any of the pain they felt growing up. But this is a big mistake. Initially I thought this coach was screaming in my language and I wanted to send her a message to say it louder for the people in the back. Then I realized I am one of those parents.

Honestly, I would jump at any chance to fight my kids’ battles or to protect them from injury. If I can take their failure, sign me up. I know it would do more harm than good, but it is hard to see your kids fail, especially when you know it’s going to happen, and you need to step back and let it happen.

Letting kids fail allows them to learn from their mistakes through experience and feeling. It also allows them to develop important social and emotional skills.

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.com

Our oldest is at the age where she “knows everything.” We had a talk with her a few months ago about forgetfulness, responsibilities, and having to do things sometimes even though we don’t want to. She explained to us that we just needed to trust her. I should mention our oldest would lose her head if it wasn’t attached. She has an Apple AirTag in just about every important item because she has lost it before. A few years ago, she lost a pair of shoes we had just purchased. Between leaving a restaurant to the next morning they disappeared and to this day have not been found. She has also lost a Nintendo Switch, hockey sticks, a cell phone, her watch, an embarrassing amount of money and enough clothes to fill a closet. So, we knew stepping back would be difficult and probably costly.

Our first failure came about 20 minutes before bedtime when her sister asked her if she had done her homework. I looked at my husband, my husband looked up from his phone, we both looked at her, she threw her arms up in frustration and said, “I forgot!” Her homework was a packet from each subject in class that had been assigned a little over a week ago. It took a solid two hours to complete.

“Teaching your children a lesson is not an easy task. Over the past few months my patience has been tested to a level I didn’t even know existed.”

Teaching your children a lesson is not an easy task. Over the past few months my patience has been tested to a level I didn’t even know existed. I have lost sleep at night playing out scenarios to help, only to remind myself it is their battle. I’ve left work early to get her to practice only for her to have forgotten pieces of her equipment. She didn’t get a class picture because she forgot to turn in the form that I placed in her backpack. We’ve driven to tournaments hours away and watched her play like it was her first time for an entire weekend. I backed out of our driveway with her Nintendo Switch on my bumper. We listen to her excuse, we don’t step in, we let it be. She will learn.

The last straw came during a hockey tournament. It was awful. She wasn’t going to bed on time, she didn’t eat before some games, her stick needed to be re-taped, and I knew her skates were too small. We trusted her to make the right choices. She didn’t, but we had to let her fail. She had to experience the heartache, the embarrassment, all the feelings that come with failure and she was not a fan.

She was upset and blamed her coaches and the girls on the other line. After she calmed down, we told her it was our job as her parents to give her help, guidance, and protection but we can’t fight her battles. She needs to do her part as well and when she doesn’t there is no one else to blame. We told her that we are all forever learning and that no human can say they know it all. There will be times when she is uncomfortable, but kids need to feel that and experience failure and mistakes. They need to make a mistake instead of doing nothing. The only real mistake is not learning from the errors we make.


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