Dear Son, It's Time For You To Go Out Into The World And Fail

I robbed you of the most important way to learn life's lessons.

Last updated on Jun 07, 2024

A woman's son in school, knowing he can fail and still succeed Drazen Zigic

Here's a scenario most parents can relate to:

The other day, I had just returned home from taking my son to school. I had a million things to do in the next hour. Suddenly, I get an urgent text from my son saying he forgot his iPad on the kitchen island (AGAIN) and needs it ASAP (of course).

What should a good parent do in this situation?

I should say "no" and let him learn his lesson, but it kills me that he might get an F because that assignment (which he did complete) is due today and is sitting right here on his iPad. My mind starts racing: This is high school! If he gets an F, it will affect his GPA. He won't be able to get into college. The next thing I know I've created a future for my son as a bum on the street.


Then, I started thinking about how that 'perfect mom' (you know who she is) would bring him his iPad, or even better, she would have noticed it sitting there on the island and not let her son leave without it in the first place. I should be more like her. We should ALL be more like her, right?

But wait, there's more! If I don't bring him his iPad, he may feel like I don't care about him and develop deep-seated anger towards me that will generalize towards all women and this will affect his relationships in the future (you know with the other female bums on the street). Yes, all because he left his iPad at home on this one fateful day.


RELATED: How To Do Less (And Be A Better Mom As A Result)

Can you relate to this struggle, moms and dads?

Well, what I needed to recognize at that moment is that all the times that I've saved him in the past (and thought that I was helping him), I was just hurting him.

I was robbing him of the opportunity to learn most organically — through the real consequences of his actions (or non-actions).

As modern parents, we "protect' our children by not keeping score in games and declaring every kid the winner. I understand that forcing ultra-competitiveness at a young age is also detrimental, but declaring everyone the winner swings the pendulum to the other side of unhealthy. Neither is good.


We end up teaching kids they don't have to work hard because everyone is rewarded the same no matter their talent level or effort invested.

But, then we hit our kids with a stark reality as they approach adulthood (because their bosses won't hand out raises just for showing up) and wonder why this generation can't get it together and instead will likely maintain emotional adolescence well into their 30s.

RELATED: 4 Tiny Changes To Make When You Suddenly Hate Parenting


Why? Because we're harming them with all of our hovering and saving them — that's why!

The truth is that kids need to feel pain (yes, pain) and disappointment and frustration to grow and mature. I know it hurts to watch our children muddle through some difficult situations. Maybe we're also really protecting ourselves from that pain as much as we're trying to protect our children.

Our job as parents is not to prevent them from pain, but rather to be there and sit with them in their pain and encourage, teach, and hug them through these critical life lessons.

I wish all these lessons were as benign as a forgotten iPad because I know life can throw some doozies at our kids, but they need to be prepared for that.


Happy family knows the best thing to do for kids NDAB Creativity via Shutterstock

RELATED: 5 Ways To Get It All Done As A Working Mom (Even When It Seems Impossible)

Two new family rules I pledge to follow 

1. Don't do for someone what they can do for themselves.

When we do for someone else (yes, even our kids) what they can do for themselves, we're hurting them and denying them the opportunity to rise to their capabilities.


2. Let the Universe teach them real consequences.

It is easier. God created a natural order in this world and it teaches better lessons than we ever could!

This generation of parents has the highest bar set than all generations before us. We have more information and knowledge, which is great, but sometimes it's crippling.

Stop working so hard! And I don't think I'm just talking to myself here. I see you helicopter moms and dads on the playground (yep, we all do). We are all in this together.


So, to my son —  it's time for you to go out into that big, wide world and fail!

RELATED: The Truth About Being A Mom AND Having It All (Hint: It's Not Impossible)

Dr. Zoe Shaw is a licensed psychotherapist and relationship expert with over 20 years of experience who consults with clients from all over the world. She has been featured in Recover Today, Weight Watchers, The Oprah Magazine, Forbes, Vox and more.