Letting Your Kids Fail

A year ago I read the book The Gift of Failure. As a former teacher and a mom, so much of the book resonated with me. Many of Jessica Lahey’s words made me want to virtually high-five her. Yes! Letting your kids forget their homework and try hard things- this is how they learn that failure is not the end! This is how they learn to press on and move forward!

And, yet.

ACTUALLY letting your kids fail is So. Much. Harder. Like, gut-wrenchingly hard.

Comforting your child after they don’t make the team or don’t get a part in the play? It stinks. So much so that I want to blame the coach or director or teacher or the other parents. We want to glaze over it with excuses or ice cream or a new toy. We want to stop them from hurting because it hurts us in such a real, physical way that only other moms can understand.

But the truth is, that is a very short-sighted response. Because if we are honest, we know that failure makes our kids (and us) stronger. It proves our resiliency. It teaches us what really matters. Even though it hurts.

The day I did not make the 8th-grade cheerleading squad is still crystal-clear in my memory. Sitting on the bleachers, I waited as they called numbers until there were no more numbers to be called and mine was still unvoiced. I held it together long enough to walk to my mom’s waiting car in the parking lot and then cried until I couldn’t cry anymore. I was certain that everything I held dear- my friends, my status, my social life- was gone. It was a devastating blow for my 13-year-old self.

But you know what? When I look back on my childhood, 8th grade stands out as one of the best years of my life. I had great teachers, true friends, I read To Kill A Mockingbird for the first time. It was a great year. And it started with a huge fail.

Here’s the honest truth- our kids are going to fail. Maybe not today, maybe not this year, but eventually they will fail. And it will suck- for us and for them. But if we teach them that they can rise back up, that we love them no matter what, that they are fearfully and wonderfully made even on the hard days, they will learn from it. They will not be defeated. And neither will we.

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