A college freshman working as a summer camp counselor called her parents. She vented about how bad things were with her supervisor. Halfway through the program, six other counselors had quit because they were unhappy and not having fun. As the conversation continued, the parents realized their child wanted their permission to quit as well. Although the situation was difficult, her parents told her to finish her commitment.
Have you ever watched your child struggle with something so much that it made you sick, and you wanted to rescue them?
At that moment, what should you do?
- Swoop in and save them from experiencing further pain?
- Watch from a distance, knowing this is part of growing up?
- Move closer and offer to assist them as they work to figure it out?
In many instances, parents are actually “swooping in” instead of letting their children struggle. It could be anything from a tough game, a difficult teacher, a complicated paper, an honest mistake or a friendship gone awry. But are parents really “saving the day?”
Most parenting experts would say these parents are actually hurting their children in the long run. They mean well when they seek to protect their children from experiencing pain, disappointment and/or failure. In fact, the parents’ goal is to set their children up for success. But unfortunately, young people who are never allowed to fail, experience consequences or problem-solve become adults who are ill-equipped to deal with adversity, setbacks and failure.
An ancient Chinese proverb says. “Failure is the mother of success.”
Think about it.
How many times has difficulty motivated you to keep on trying until you figured it out?
Whether it was memorizing a recital piece, learning a football play, writing a paper or tying shoes, how did you feel when you finally accomplished the task? More than likely, you felt a sense of pride, newfound confidence and perhaps a little more independent. All of these are important ingredients for success in life. Consider how you would have felt had your parent swooped in to do these things for you.
Beginning with the end in mind, besides academics, what do you want your child to learn this year? If helping your child to be confident, independent and unafraid of failure is your goal, it may require some restraint on your part.
Here are some tips for when your children fail:
- Unless they are in harm’s way, avoid fixing it for them.
- Allow them to experience the natural consequences of their actions, even when it’s painful to watch.
- When they do fail, address what happened. Ask what they would do differently next time.
- Instead of taking matters into your own hands, go with your child and stand with them as they learn how to discuss an issue with their teacher.
Failure can be a powerful motivator. Instead of viewing your child’s failures as a direct reflection of your parenting skills, see them as steps toward future success.