A Lesson for Parents on Failure … (11/11/2005)

Ok, it seems that I’m going to be picking on people who are supposed to be adults for a while. Today’s lesson is about failures.

Or, more specifically, fear of failure. As parents, we all tend to try to protect our children from failure. However – if we stop to think about it, the one time in our children’s lives when they learned the most the fastest was between birth and their second birthday. What did they spend that time doing? Failing. Trying again. Failing. Finding success. Failing. Until they learned how to make the success the norm for that type of activity. They had no fear of failure.

Like learning to walk. How long was it from starting to crawl until they were running faster than you? Did they fall? Sure – a lot. Did they get back up and try again? Every time. Our children don’t arrive in this world full of fear – their parents put the fear in them. Children are the world’s best students because they will try anything that they see someone else doing with no fear of getting hurt.

I knew a pair of children back when I lived in St. Louis – and they were really something. The oldest was a boy, and only 10 months behind him came a sister. Even though she was nearly a full year younger than her brother (and lets not even get into the gender differences) the little girl fought tooth-and-nail to keep up with her brother. ANYTHING he could do, she learned to do, usually within days, which in turn pushed him to accelerate his learning curve. These kids were way ahead of their peers – because they were challenging each other while being given complete freedom to do so by their parents. By the time the boy was 10, he was solving problems that challenge most early teens.

I’m not saying that parents should never try to protect their kids. Of course you keep them from running out into traffic. But, I promise you they are quite capable of figuring out for themselves that the burners on the stove are hot, and that the dog will bite and the cat will scratch if mistreated. What I’m talking about here is over-protection, and the consequence of that – diminished willingness to try. A child can learn the rules of the world around them quite well on their own. It’s your job to make sure they get to the doctor’s office when they need to go, and to make sure that they don’t get killed figuring out about electricital outlets. Provide them with opportunities to socialize with a lot of different types of people – all races, ages, genders, and levels of physical/mental ability – they will learn how to handle themselves around them all.

So, lighten up. Let your children learn BY making mistakes, and they won’t become afraid of making them. The hardest lesson to learn is to OVERCOME fear that we learned from our parents. IMHO.


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