Safe Failing

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day about all the ailments of the “world we live in now-a-days” and had an epiphany. One of the main problems we face is that my generation, probably one older and definitely the ones younger than me are systematically eliminating the opportunity for our kids to fail in a safe environment. You’ve heard the terms “helicopter parent” or “lawnmower parent” and those are part of the issue, but it goes much deeper. Our schools allow make up work to the point of absurdity. Why? Because we as parents have all but demanded it. Parents intervene with our kids’ jobs, discipline outside the home, even college. I spoke with a friend of mine who is a department chair at a university in another state and she said she had 2 parent/teacher conferences in the spring semester this year. What in the world?? 

To compound the issue, we not only eliminate failure, we push them to perfection. We expect them to be sharp and perfect without the room to fail and adjust. I see kids under 10 years old getting pushed in academics and athletics to the point of breaking. Every mistake almost seems like a personal affront to the parent. Those kids don’t know how to fail, don’t know how to recover and are terrified of one little slip up with the parent. Can you imagine the pressure on a developing psyche?

We have to provide opportunities for our kids to fail. Failure is life building. It is what makes us strive harder. We have to know that failure is not the end. It is the beginning of a journey to get better, get stronger, improve and ultimately find ourselves. If we don’t fail as kids, when there is an ultimate safety net, when should we fail? Parents kick that opportunity down the road and the first real failure comes at 18-19 years old. By that time, it is a devastating event. That young adult doesn’t know how to recover. 

I’m sure that most parents prevent failure out of a loving heart. Failure sucks and we don’t want our kids to hurt. But hurt makes growth and sharpens the sword. You can’t get a sharp metal object without throwing it into the fire and it getting beaten a little bit (figuratively). If we want our kids to be sharp, we have to give them opportunities to get in the fire and to get beaten a little bit and then be the cooling water that helps mend the wounds. Guide them through the cooling and then allow them back into the fire again.