Why You Should Sometimes Let Your Children Fail — And Learn From It

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mom and daughter sitting on couch

Failure is a part of life.

We all assume that parents want the best for all their children. What "the best" actually is changes from generation to generation, and so does the perfect way to achieve this so-called best.

Now that we have an assumption and a supporting idea, let’s cut ourselves some slack. We aren’t perfect, and neither is any other parent. Our children are human beings — and so are we.

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Many parents seem to believe that failure will harm their children.

It's true that consistent failure in every area of endeavor will tend to harm a child’s self-confidence. Certainly, parents should ensure that this does not happen by placing the child in appropriate situations for their individual abilities and preferences.

But the reverse is true, as well. Protecting your child and sheltering them from all failure is harmful.

Your child can either believe that they are perfect, or that you're so worried about their incompetence that they're afraid to fail at all.

Allowing your child to try things without fear is a gift you can give as a parent.

Think back for a moment to your child’s earliest attempts at walking. Most babies try to stand and walk several times before they get the hang of it.

They stumble, fall, get up, and try again. They may take a couple of stabs at different strategies. Eventually, they learn to walk and run.

The pride in their tiny faces is absolutely beautiful!

The same is true of talking. Who can forget the adorable mispronunciations?

Failure pretty much happens with any other skill the children learn on their own.

Kids learn by trial and error.

Why is it that we’re generally OK with our children learning some things through failure, but not others?

One reason is that we don’t see the way they learn to walk as a failure, because we know they will learn. So, we must learn to trust that they will learn other things, as well.

It’s actually important for their development as human beings who can function in the adult world that they learn to accept that failure is possible and that it won’t kill them.

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Failure is a learning experience.

My older daughter went off to college with a string of trial-and-error learning experiences behind her — from walking and talking, to riding a bike to learning to take an advanced placement exam correctly.

She had confidence that she knew how to tackle learning. She reported to me that some students from her high school were also in her university class.

Some students had parents who checked their homework — or did it for them — and had higher grades than my child. However, when they were in a dorm with no parents around, my child knew how to manage her time and get her work done.

She told me that some of the "better" students never figured it out and "their books are in the original shrink-wrap," because there was nobody to manage them.

My daughter had struggled with learning those skills, sometimes failing to complete tasks in middle and high school, but she had achieved the ability before college, so she was successful.

I’m not just telling you this as a proud mother, but to demonstrate that our kids will have to fail sometimes, and it's better that they do so when the stakes are lower.

Don't let your kids become fearful of failing.

If your child is not allowed to learn from failure, they will be so phobic of failing and disappointing you that they won’t try things, at all!

I had a high-school classmate who fell into that category. He was more gifted than many students, but always took the most basic courses because his parents demanded a perfect report card.

As a result, he didn't learn a lot and was constantly bored. You don’t want that for your child, I’m quite sure.

So, what's a parent to do? It’s simple, really.

Allow your children to try anything and everything that is of interest to them and available.

Re-phrase "failure" into "learning curve," or something similar. Support them emotionally if they seem upset, encourage them to keep trying, and express pride in their efforts, tenacity, and courage.

This is how you create a child who can succeed!

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Nancie Barwick is a clinical hypnotherapist, author, speaker, and medical intuitive. For more information on her services, visit her website.