Why our kids need to fail
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