A Negative Term Can Actually Be a Positive Step Toward Independence

One of the great joys of parenting is watching our children learn – and master – a new skill.

It starts with them crawling, walking, and talking – and we let them practice under our watchful eye until they get it right and they move on to the next skill.

But, ultimately, we need to let them go to learn on their own – and it may not always turn out the way we’d like.

“Failure” is a strong word, and it almost always has a negative connotation.

But if we don’t make mistakes and fail once in a while, we may not have the drive to try to learn from those mistakes and improve ourselves.

As parents, our children’s “failures” are often hard to swallow.  We feel they reflect badly on our parenting.

If only we had given them more time, been more patient, helped more with their homework, they would have done better, we think.

But when our kids are learning a new skill, doing projects for school, working toward independence, how much should we do to prevent them from failing?

It’s a fine line:  Do we hover and fix all their mistakes so that they don’t end up learning to do it themselves, or do we offer support and allow them to learn from mistakes and teach themselves how to fix them?

Neither is easy for parents.  We don’t like to stand by and watch our kids make mistakes – even fail – when we could have stepped in.

But if we constantly step in, they won’t ever take the initiative to do it for themselves.

We’re all afraid of failure.  It’s not an easy pill to swallow, whether it’s a bad grade in school as a child or a failed project at work as an adult.

These days, it seems there are so many safety nets in place to keep our children from making mistakes.  Everything is at their fingertips online, and the age of over-involved parenting is upon us.

The pressure to succeed is worse than ever before.  Kids are growing up more quickly than they should in this information age, and a carefree childhood is becoming a thing of the past.

There are “helicopter” parents, “lawnmower” parents, “tiger” parents – all names for the fact that we are all too afraid to allow our kids to do anything without our help.

But failure is a vital key to success.  

Unless your child is “failing” to the point that they’re limiting their opportunities in the future; i.e. not doing homework, not studying, not showing up for practices or class – not showing any effort – then we need to get over the negative connotation of failure.

When our kids are little, we let them make messes.  They knock down the blocks so they can pick them up again.

The same thing applies on a larger scale as they get older.  They have to apply trial and error to everything they learn.

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If something isn’t working, then what do they need to do to make it work?

This doesn’t mean that parents should be hands-off and never step in to help, or more importantly, encourage.

What it does mean is finding that balance – offering support, encouragement, advice… helping when needed, but not doing it for them.

Give them ideas and ask them questions that lead to the answers they need – without actually giving them the answers.

Allow them to make mistakes, while ensuring they learn from them in a positive way.  

Help them reach their goals with guidance and encouragement and embrace mistakes that lead to personal growth.

It’s not easy, but we can do this, moms and dads!