Teaching children they may not always win is the best way to help them understand what true success is.
As an adult who is passionate about children and how they learn, grow, and succeed, my desire to ingest material that explains the discrepancies in education and how to effectively eliminate them is a major obsession. We don’t know how to ensure that our young people are successful and yet we constantly engender failure in them at every turn. When it is not ok to risk something and mistakes are not allowed, we fail our children.
When certainty and worry about and over concern with being labeled a “bad parent” rules the day, how can we effectively respond to our young folks?
As a new teacher many years ago, I was instructed to hunker down, crack the whip and show the little monsters who was in charge. No one ever thought to address how being in charge limited children’s ability to question and think. There was never one discussion regarding how to encourage curiosity, which can and often does lead to new and innovative approaches to problem-solving.
As parents and caregivers to young people, we will all screw up. There will be times when you are a bad parent and your thinking about what your child needs and the best way to address those needs is skewed. The real mistake is thinking that if we create an image of success at all costs that everything will be fine.
If we want our children to face failure as an opportunity to learn, we must model this same behavior and way of approaching the world.
My two oldest grandchildren struggle with school not because the material is that challenging. The difficulty arises from the silent message that it is not ok to not know things. When we worked together over a year ago on a project, it was very important that mistakes be made and learned from, not avoided. More than a year later there is still much self-esteem retained as a result of this endeavor.
We must move beyond the need to please the ever-present haters and nitwits whose concern is looking good, not supporting personal and emotional growth in our children, and into giving our children what they need the most to succeed in school and life.
Paul Tough, How Children Succeed, states that one of the most important ingredients in rearing children is grit; the ability to wrestle with a challenge and self-assess what is needed to turn things in your favor.
Teaching children to not allow fear of the unknown and failure is impossible if we – parents and those that love our babies – have not moved beyond this limiting and binary way of viewing our lives and the choices we make. Someone told me years ago: Children are short, not stupid. If we want our children to succeed, we must allow them to feel the other side of the reality: failure.
I understand the difficulty in watching children flail about, make less than stellar life choices and decisions purely based on emotions and instinct.
Years ago my mother begged me to leave credit cards alone. But I needed to look good. Four years, eight credit cards, some serious debt and crappy jobs that paid nothing, squashed the need to look good.
I realized that I should have listened to her wise and dramatic warnings. She offered me the best life lesson in my 45 years of living. She let me get myself out of debt slowly and painfully.
While I am not currently debt free, my relationship to, and management of money has been fundamentally altered. I am not where I would like to be financially, but I am closer than I have ever been as a result of that brutal and well-timed lesson.
It is the same lesson that I have tried to impart to my youngest sister and all the young folks I meet. I offer assistance by offering the opportunity to build inner resources so that no matter what happens, my young charges will know that they can figure it out.
We want to offer strategies for building a solid inner core. Building a solid inner core does not mean that mistakes are never made. It means that mistakes are welcomed and encouraged and a misstep is not a reason to wallow in failure. A misstep in its proper connotation simply means that something was overlooked, forgotten, or not considered. A person only thinks like this when they have been given or taught the concepts of grit, curiosity, self-assessment, and that failure is a place to visit and learn from not set up a permanent residence.
It is our belief in our ability to figure things out that makes life and failure, and the upset it causes sweet.