Let ‘Em Fail

The notebook was on the counter when we left for school.

I knew it was a homework notebook and that the work inside was due. I also knew that I had asked my child twice to pack it into a backpack. And there it sat.

It took everything I had not to grab it and carry it to the car because I knew the anguish that was coming… for both of us.

Watching my children struggle is difficult. I have a natural desire to protect them from the hard things in life and from the consequences of their own actions. And without trying very hard, I could justify why they deserve a break…

But if my children aren’t allowed to struggle and fail now, when will they learn perseverance? How will they learn that poor choices come with a price? If I always rescue them, won’t they expect someone to do the same when they are older?

I want them to experience failure now, in the safety of a home where people love them. I want them to understand that their actions have consequences, and I want them to learn it while the stakes are still relatively low. And I want them to know how the real world works.

The real world won’t cut them slack because their dad served in the military and spent a lot of time in harm’s way. It won’t care that they moved around more than other kids, or that the Army moved their very best friends to another continent. The real world will make the same demands of them regardless of the hardship they’ve endured.

But if we can teach our kids responsibility now, the rewards will be great. If they are allowed to struggle now, it won’t feel so scary to struggle as an adult when the stakes are much higher. They’ll begin to develop confidence in their own abilities. And they’ll have the tools to handle whatever life throws at them.

So let ’em struggle. Let ’em fail. Be their cheerleader, and dust them off when they fall. Guide them when they make the wrong choice, and love them no matter what. It likely won’t be easy, but your kids will likely blossom before your very eyes. You’ll both be better for the experience, and the real world won’t be such a daunting place for our kids.

12 thoughts on “Let ‘Em Fail

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  1. A greater truth has never been spoken….I am a retired teacher and on my wall was posted a sign….”You are responsible for you” but sad to say, most parents don’t get it. I can’t tell you how many times that parents have said to me, “It wasn’t their fault that the homework wasn’t turned in…..I forgot to put it in their backpack after I graded it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

    1. You know, I have found my children’s teachers to be my greatest support network when it comes to teaching consequences. They are all for it, and they give me as much leeway as I need to drive the point home… I always worry about making their job harder (for example if they have to deal with a chronic homework-forgetter) but they are always on board with teaching responsibility. Thanks for your service in our classrooms.

  2. I am guilty! I “micro manage” my son..so he has no reason to be responsible for him. I decided this school year it will be different..he started on Monday…and It takes all I have not to “remind” him to death. I figure if it is important then he will remember if he doesn’t think it is important ….he will just be without his “homework”.. Great Article!

    1. You aren’t the only one. I’ve been doing it on and off for years, and I’ve only recently realized that I’m not doing them any favors. In fact, I was driving myself crazy, and I was angry all the time because I was working harder at their responsibilities than they were… Maybe we need a support group! 😉 Thanks for stopping by…

  3. Our school is so adamant that the girls learn responsiblity that we’re not allowed to bring them their homework. I totally agree with you…if we rescue them now, they’ll be living with us when they’re 25!

  4. Oh how many times when the kids were little did I find myself in your shoes. Most of the time I grabbed it and flew out the door to intercept them as they walked to school! I can so relate to what you are saying. Great reading and right on target.

    1. So true Kim! Can’t tell you the number of times my kids have taken a completed project to school and been discouraged to see that some of the projects are almost professional looking…

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