We all want our children to feel the pleasure of success, and it can be heartbreaking to watch your child attempt something and not live up to their own expectations (and sometimes ours too). Failure doesn’t feel great, most of us will agree.
But what if we told you that setting them up to fail isn’t so bad after all?
We recently caught up with Sylvia Puentes, who runs workshops around the world called Right Voice For You, and has 17 years experience working in various areas of education. She explained how we can empower our children to make good decisions through teaching them how to fail.
Why should we let our children fail? “With so many virtual experiences today, many kids do not see the impact their choice will have in the short and long term,” Sylvia told kidspot.
Sylvia goes on to explain that there are many children living with stress and a fear of failing.
“There are many youth committing suicide due to judgements and expectations they have not been able to meet,” she said.
Sylvia explained that a child that is given the chance to take risks and allowed to fail without the fear that failure is wrong, can become our next great scientists, explorers or artists.
How can we let our child fail? Allowing them to fail is far from just letting them do whatever they like, and there will still be times when it is necessary to step in and protect them from failure or harm.
Sylvia suggests we start with asking our child questions at a very young age.
“When someone is truly asked a question, with no projections of what the right answer should be, it invites them to pause and look at the situation before making that choice.”
So by asking a question, we can prompt our child to consider the consequences of their decision.
Here’s an example.
You are taking part in the daily homework battle. You know the one, where you’re wailing, “we could have been finished by now”? You might even be bargaining that they can finish their reader before bedtime, as long as they “JUST GO THROUGH FIVE SIGHT WORDS!!”
This is where Sylvia’s questions come into play.
“If you don’t do your homework, what consequences will that create?”
“If you do your homework, what will that create?”
So rather than being the authoritative parent that often comes naturally, asking questions can sometimes help your child guide themselves to the right decision.
And ask yourself if it really would be such a bad thing for them to experience the consequences of not completing their homework.
A successful entrepreneur was encouraged to fail every day.
Sylvia shared the story of a woman who was asked by her father at the dinner table every night, “what did you fail at today?”
“They created a new culture at home, where the stories and the celebrations were about the failures you’d had in the day,” said Sylvia.
“For this family, it was about what else can I try, what else can I choose, what else can I create that has not been created.
“Her success and her joy of trying things, having something not work and trying something new is what has made her successful,” Sylvia said.
Little steps: It’s not about withdrawing completely and letting your child run amok, and this technique still requires the usual level of parenting. But perhaps the next time you see your child on the path to failure, consider what they stand to learn from the situation.
Ask them a question. See if they can describe the consequences of their decisions. And remind them that failing isn’t such a bad thing. It’s how they adapt and respond that really matters.