As parents and educators, there is nothing more rewarding then seeing our kids succeed and achieving their full potential. As influential figures on their road to success, we do whatever we can to guide them along the way. It makes us feel good to put them out of harm’s way and rush ahead to remove any bumps along their path.
But is this doing more harm than good?
On one hand, it is common sense for parents and teachers to provide kids with every opportunity to succeed: moms and dads checking backpacks every night so kids don’t forget to pack their textbook, teachers checking student agendas every day to see if homework is written down, scenes like these are all too common. But are we really setting kids up for success when we are so worried about raising happy children with good grades than competent and independent young adults?
In a her recent book, The Gift of Failure, author and middle school teacher Jessica Lahey argues that “parents must learn to allow their children to experience the disappointment and frustration that occur from life’s inevitable problems so that they can grow up to be successful, resilient, and self-reliant adults.”
Failure is almost an absolutely certainty in everybody’s life. At some point in our lives we will fail to do or accomplish something. Be it a math test, a sports team tryout, an attempt at a new recipe, or a job interview, we will all fail at some point in our lives. It is what we learn from these failures and how we deal with these disappointments that determine how we can deal with similar problems again in the future.
If we protect and cuddle our kids too much, we have a tendency to produce needy, anxious, and fragile human beings. Modern parenting has reached an unprecedented level of overprotectiveness: parents who rush to school at the whim of a phone call to deliver forgotten assignments, who challenge teachers on report card disappointments, mastermind children’s friendships, and interfere decisions and calls on the playing field.
Lahey explains that even though these parents see themselves as being highly responsive to their children’s well being, they aren’t giving them the chance to experience failure—or the opportunity to learn to solve their own problems. Over-parenting, over-teaching, and over-coaching have the potential to ruin a child’s confidence and undermine their resiliency.
Of course this does not suggest that we should just throw our kids to the wolves and let them fend for themselves. We just all need to learn to step back a bit and embrace our children’s failures instead of rescuing them in the face of imminent failures. Kids can do a lot more than we think; we just have to let them own it.