Why our kids need to fail

South Waikato News - - OPINION -

While we all want our chil­dren to suc­ceed, we also need to let our kids ex­pe­ri­ence fail­ure. As hard as it may be, kids need to learn how to cope with dis­ap­point­ment, set­backs and fail­ure, to be re­silient. This isn’t about en­cour­ag­ing fail­ure but teach­ing kids how to bounce back when things go wrong – and the younger the bet­ter.

To­day there’s a whole new lan­guage to de­scribe over­pro­tected, molly cod­dled, cot­ton wool kids – and their par­ents.

Are you a ‘‘he­li­copter’’ par­ent, hov­er­ing over your child then swoop­ing in to in­ter­vene at the first sign of trou­ble? Or a ‘‘lawn­mower’’ par­ent, smooth­ing over ev­ery pos­si­ble sit­u­a­tion that could cause your child stress or dis­com­fort?

A re­cent story on over pro­tected kids in the Huff­in­g­ton Post re­ferred to an Aus­tralian study that found a stag­ger­ing 90 per cent of school coun­sel­lors and child psy­chol­o­gists had seen in­ci­dents of over par­ent­ing.

It made me won­der how we’d com­pare here in New Zealand. Would we be the same? Bet­ter? Or even worse?

Re­silience is so im­por­tant in all as­pects of mod­ern life, from deal­ing with text bul­ly­ing to man­ag­ing at univer­sity or in the work­place.

But we all know how hard it is to sit back and watch your child fail. In­stead, we need to teach our chil­dren how to as­sess risk and work out some harm min­imi­sa­tion strate­gies.

The Prime Min­is­ter’s Chief Sci­ence Ad­vi­sor, (who is also a board mem­ber of the Fam­i­lies Com­mis­sion), Pro­fes­sor Sir Peter Gluck­man, has ex­plored the is­sue of re­silience in young peo­ple.

He says that by not al­low­ing chil­dren to learn about risks, we set ado­les­cents up for a very tough tran­si­tion to adult­hood. Re­silience, he says, needs to be in­stilled in the first five years of life so chil­dren can cope with our ever-chang­ing and in­creas­ingly com­plex world.

To­day, de­spite ado­les­cents ma­tur­ing ear­lier, they are ac­cepted as adults later than ever. He calls this ‘‘tight-loose par­ent­ing’’ where we over­pro­tect the chil­dren, then let teens run wild with few so­cial con­straints. In pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions it was the other way around with ‘‘loose-tight’’ par­ent­ing be­ing the norm.

There’s a grow­ing in­ter­na­tional school of thought that fail­ure is good for our col­lec­tive men­tal health. In the US and UK there are in­creas­ing calls for chil­dren to be en­cour­aged to ex­pe­ri­ence fail­ure and learn how to deal with it.

Teach­ers, par­ents and academics are start­ing to ex­plore ways for chil­dren and young peo­ple to take risks, to un­der­stand fail­ure, learn judge­ment, and the im­por­tance of per­se­ver­ance in suc­cess.

I think we should tell our young peo­ple that: Bill Gates’ first busi­ness failed Stephen King’s first novel was re­jected 30 times

Thomas Edi­son failed 1000 times be­fore cre­at­ing the light­bulb

Vin­cent Van Gogh only sold one paint­ing in his life­time. Belinda Milnes is Chief Com­mis­sioner of the Fam­i­lies Com­mis­sion

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