It’s easy for parents to think just in the moment. To want to save their kids from pain and worry. I know my parents did. I know that I certainly would a lot of the time. And sometimes we lose the fact that what we really should be doing is raising our children to be the way we want them to be at age 25. What life skills and characteristics do you want your children to have when they hit 25? From working with parents, they want their kids to be resilient, kind, strong, happy, honest and many other very positive qualities. So, how do you get there?
This article, written by Mickey Goodman, points out that we need to let our children fail and learn when they are young to develop many of these skills. What? Failure can lead to happiness? Amazingly enough, yes. When you fail, you have to look for alternative ways to deal with the problem. Sometimes, you learn that giving up is the best option, because you don’t have a strength in that area. Sometimes, you learn to struggle through without the aim of success but with the aim of just doing. Sometimes, you learn to do something in a new and different way. Each of these allow you to learn about yourself, about what makes you stronger, about what makes you happier. You learn resilience, which gives you power.
As a 16 year old, I had rarely failed at anything. I expected that when I took my driving test that I would pass straight away. I was smart. I had practiced. Those two things should lead to success, right? Nope. I failed it twice. I was embarrassed. But I learned. Sometimes, it takes a lot of work to get to where you want to get, and sometimes you have to fail along the way. My dad watched me fail the second time and heard the driving evaluator tell me that I did fine but that he felt I just needed a bit more practice on the stick before he felt comfortable passing me. He could have stepped in and argued with the guy, telling him that the car shuttered in the best of times and it wasn’t my fault. But he didn’t. He let me fail, again. And while I cried and was unhappy for a while, I learned. Happily, this was not the last time I failed at something. And I am constantly learning about myself and the world. Without those failures, I would most likely have never taken the risks I did – including moving overseas to a city where I knew no one for a job at a school I had never visited.
Here are a few of the suggestions that the article gives to parents for raising strong 25 year olds (and note, they call them painful, because they are):
“We need to let our kids fail at 12 – which is far better than at 42,” he says. “We need to tell them the truth (with grace) that the notion of ‘you can do anything you want’ is not necessarily true.”
Kids need to align their dreams with their gifts. Every girl with a lovely voice won’t sing at the Met; every Little League baseball star won’t play for the major leagues.
• Allow them to get into trouble and accept the consequences. It’s okay to make a “C-.” Next time, they’ll try harder to make an “A”.
• Balance autonomy with responsibility. If your son borrows the car, he also has to re-fill the tank.
• Collaborate with the teacher, but don’t do the work for your child. If he fails a test, let him take the consequences.
“We need to … allow children to fail while they are young in order to succeed when they are adults.”