We came across an article recently that points out that we often do our children a disservice by protecting them from distress or difficulties. Allowing our children to fail, and learn from that experience can be the best thing for them.
Why allowing failure can raise successful children
By Gregory Ramey, Ph.D. 2:29 PM Friday, December 17, 2010
We are making extraordinary and inappropriate efforts to enclose our children in a kind of psychological bubble wrap to protect them from any distress, dangers or difficulties.
That was my message at a recent parenting workshop.
Allow your children to fail, and learn from the experiences of sadness, rejection, hurt and even life’s inevitable unfairness.
This advice goes against every parental instinct, which is to protect our children from any unpleasant feelings. One thoughtful member of the audience wrote me a long note a few days after the event. She asked if failure wouldn’t result in her child having a poor self-concept, and lead to depression or perhaps inappropriate ways to get attention.
While constant failure is certainly bad for any child, so is the other extreme of kids who are overprotected from life’s realities.
A parent of a sixth-grader won’t allow her daughter to try out for a competitive soccer team because of concerns that she will be rejected and feel badly. A high school honor student is advised against taking an advanced placement class because it may be too academically challenging. The mom of a 4-year-old told me she always supervises her child’s play dates so that she can intervene immediately if the kids are not having a good time.
These are loving parents whose well-intentioned efforts are having the unintended consequence of leaving their children ill prepared for the real world.
Here are the three advantages to allowing your kids to experience failure.
1. Failure teaches kids a lot. A child’s failure may be due to poor effort, lack of skill or ability, or sometimes just chance circumstances. Our job is to help kids understand the reasons why they were unsuccessful. If the high school student did indeed get a B in a difficult class, it’s important for that student to figure out if motivation or ability was the real cause. That is an important lesson that has implications for that person’s college career.
2. Failure prepares kids for life. We will not always be successful or have positive experiences in our lives. Kids need to learn how to handle unfair teachers, bad bosses, hurtful colleagues and tumultuous relationships.
Kids mostly need to learn about persistence. Great accomplishments are not achieved by people who never failed but by perseverance when confronted by disappointment.
3. Failure teaches kids self-reliance. Stop making your kids so dependent upon you to resolve every issue, sooth every hurt feeling and correct every perceived injustice. Kids who deal with the distress of disappointment learn to become more resourceful, independent and responsible.
I realize it is not easy to allow your children to fail, but it may be one of your most successful parenting techniques.
Gregory Ramey, Ph.D., is a child psychologist and vice president for outpatient services at The Children’s Medical Center of Dayton. For more of his columns, visit www.childrensdayton.org/ramey and join Dr. Ramey on Facebook at www.facebook.com/drgregramey.
Here is a link to the original article in the Dayton Daily News.
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