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I Want My Kids to Fail

Do not handicap your children by making their lives easy.

I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.  And that is why I succeed. – Michael Jordan

The pupil who is never required to do what he cannot do, never does what he can do. – John Stuart Mill

I want my kids to fail. That probably isn’t at the top of your list for your kids, but it should be.  Failure is one of the most important experiences they will ever have. The road to success is paved with failure because failure teaches us how to succeed.

I want my kids to fail.  It is only when they fail that they have an opportunity to pick themselves back up.  It is only when they fail that they learn to work hard.  It is only when they fail that they learn what doesn’t work.  It is only when they fail that they learn that sometimes people need help.  It is only when they fail that they learn empathy for others struggling.  It is only when they fail that they learn that life is not always fair.  It is only when they fail that they understand what being human is.

I want my kids to fail, but not to the point that they can’t emotionally continue.  Right now I am there to help provide a pep talk, spend time working with them to succeed, and tell them that I believe they can succeed if they continue to try.  But I will not always be able to be there, so this motivation needs to become internalized so that they succeed even if no one else believes in them.

I want my kids to fail, but not to the point where they cannot afford to feed, shelter, and clothe themselves.  While they are under my care is a time that the consequences of failure are not threatening to their health and welfare.  This is the time to learn through failure how to succeed.

I want my kids to fail in the classroom.  This is true education!  I don’t want them to believe that success is easy, but when a child is bright enough to learn with minimal effort and is rewarded with A’s for that, they come to believe that hard work isn’t needed for success.  I want them to struggle, to not always succeed on the first try – or the twentieth, to learn that asking for help is not a sign of weakness or lack of intelligence, and to see that success is often a long process.

I want my kids to fail. That is one reason we supplement their education at home.  Our kindergartner has learned through doing second grade math, which she can find challenging, that there is a strong correlation between the effort she puts in and how her quiz scores are.  When she has a rough quiz, she often chooses to do three or four practices so that her next quiz will be better.  This drive will take her further than her natural intelligence.

I want my kids to fail – and you should want yours to, also.  If your children are struggling, help them to learn to succeed.  Don’t make success easy for them, but teach them the skills they need to succeed.  If your children are not struggling at times in school, ask why not.  Ask for curriculum that challenges them and makes them work for their grades.  Learning how to fail is one of the most important skills they will ever learn.

I want my kids to fail.  It is how they will learn to succeed.

Join us at Rochester SAGE.  Together we can make a difference for advanced & gifted students!

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Clara T March 14, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Essential reading for parents.
Joshua Raymond March 14, 2012 at 08:54 PM
I'm glad you tried to instill this lesson in the young athletes. Often this lesson is taught in sports but missed elsewhere. I believe it is much easier to learn this lesson when you are young than once you are off on your own and it will give you the ability to overcome issues later on. We often worry about a child's self esteem when they fail, but as Dr. Sylvia Rimm wrote, "The surest path to positive self esteem is to succeed at something which one perceived would be difficult. Each time we steal a student's struggle, we steal the opportunity for them to build self-confidence. They must learn to do hard things to feel good about themselves."
Rochester Hills Resident March 15, 2012 at 03:19 PM
excellent post!!! you could have not said it any better!
Robert Cucheran March 15, 2012 at 06:33 PM
Great Post!
Shari Navetta March 15, 2012 at 10:22 PM
I have been struggling with myself lately regarding this very topic. Watching your children have to fail goes against every instinct a mother (or father) has. However, I know what you say is true and has to be done. The main problem is the heart and head are conflicted. My hope as a parent is I lead with my head and let my heart pick up the pieces. You have written an excellent piece. I printed it and tucked in my purse. I plan to pull it out at t-ball, football and soccer practice! Thanks!

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