It starts when they are little, and we cover every possible surface with rubber or foam, so that the little tyke won’t scrape his knee.
It continues when we show up at pre-Kindergarten with a list of demands for the teacher of our four-year-old, and how he struggles with “this” or “that.”
As the child ages, every “bad” grade (which, to some, is anything below an A-) is the teacher’s fault, and the instructor gets an accusatory letter or even a visit.
In middle school, it’s daddy “helping” Johnny with his science project…in other words, daddy does it so that little Johnny doesn’t get a B.
In high school, it’s mommy doing the research for little Susie’s paper on President Taft, and even, ahem, “making sure the typing is done well.”
In college, it is the now-20-year-old who has to text, tweet, call, Facebook, or video chat from his/her cell phone every time any negative thing comes.
And it even continues into marriage, where the now 25-year-old runs back to mom and dad the first time the budget doesn’t balance or hubby comes home a few minutes late.
I love my kids, but I want them to fail every once in a while.
Yes, I know that sounds harsh, but if they are not allowed to skin their little knees or make a bad grade every once in awhile, when will they learn to take responsibility? When will they learn to work through pain? When will they learn to stand on their own?
Honestly, I do not want my kids to fail…ever. But I must let them. I must watch them fall, and then show them compassion and how to clean up a scrape. I must let them get a bad grade and learn that studying will help. I must tell them that they can’t text or call every time someone makes them mad, but I must teach them how to stand on their own with grace and courage.
When many of our children reach college and are on their own for the first time, they face a world where failure is now an option for the first time, and they don’t know how to handle it. College and university administrators tell us that this is one of the main reasons (if not the main reason) why colleges feature binge drinking, self mutilation (e.g., cutting), and even suicide. The child’s “safety net” is gone, and they’ve never learned how to fall and take a painful hit.
Moms and dads, what can we do?
1. Let failure happen. I know it’s hard. I hate to see my kids cry. I don’t like it when they get hurt, but this world is going to hurt them sometimes. They need to know that it is part of life.
2. Don’t blame everyone else. This is a big one! It’s not always the teacher’s fault or the coach’s fault. It is often the child’s fault! Sometimes they just are not smart enough, fast enough, talented enough, or confident enough. And that is okay! They have their own talents and skills, and it’s okay to fail in some areas of life, because they will excel in others.
3. Show grace, forgiveness, and compassion. When they are hurt–when they have failed–show them that there is forgiveness. Show them how to grow from this. Show them what they did wrong, and show them that you are always there to help them when they fall (not before they fall).
4. Pray fervently. Pray for wisdom to know what to say. Pray that you will show the proper example when you fail.
Is there a spiritual application here? Of course there is. Why do you think we have so many young people today in our own churches who don’t think they are doing anything wrong? Could it be that mom and dad never tell them they are wrong, and that it is always someone else’s fault! A generation raised like that will be a very difficult–if not impossible–generation to reach.
QUESTION: How can we better handle it when our children fail?
Photo credit: Johnf728 on Creative Commons
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