Why We Should Let Our Kids Fail & 3 Ways To Do It

Today’s modern parenting feels far from the instinctual skillset of former generations, especially in our efforts to raise self-reliant and confident kids through natural consequences. Failure, like many things in life, is relative. Earning a C grade in Algebra might look like a failure to some, but to the parents who watched their child study diligently and persevere through challenges, it might not.

Learning to let our kids fail is truly just a coming of age tale; a storyline of trust earned and independence gained, where kids are capable, have competent abilities and can even emotionally overcome the pains of failure. But how do parents facilitate this?

Here are 3 tips to prepare yourself and your child for failure… and why it’s not all that bad.

Create Boundaries That are Comfortable for You

Allowing a child to fail while their mom is hunkered in the corner crippled with worry isn’t the point! In deciding to allow my daughter to fail, I created limits that felt comfortable and right for me. The first question I mentally ask myself is, is she safe? Safety is always the decision baseline and, if for any reason I feel my child is unsafe, I interject without judgement of being a helicopter mom. However, the times when her failure happens to also create inconvenience or anxiety are the moments in which I push past the urge to intervene and allow natural consequences to take place.

Acknowledge Our Motives

We protect, in part, to also soothe our own parental egos, anxieties and fears around failure. What parent really wants to watch their kids struggle and, ultimately, fail? Moments in which our children are failing can cause a slew of emotions that beckon us to step in and solve the problem. Coupled with society’s tendency to judge parents by their children’s successes, the inclination to prevent failure is strong for many of us. As adults, what we can do in lieu of solving all their problems is to model mindfulness to our children. Practice self-control by allowing yourself a few moments to emotionally process their failure before responding or taking action.

Focus on the Benefits of Failure

Sitting idle as your child forgets their homework on the kitchen table yet again, as they argue with a friend or fail to meet a standard can be excruciating for a parent who wants “the best” for their kids. Staying focused on the ultimate goal – to raise resilient and fulfilled adults – is the way I get through those moments of impending failure. I want my children to feel competent and confident in their abilities, as well as be mindful of their limitations that keep them safe. Framing failure as the evidence of attempt also helps too; because who wants their kid to not even try simply because they might fail?

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