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Protecting Our Children from Failure

My son and his girlfriend got engaged this week. It was a celebratory moment for all of us. We knew he was going to propose. As a matter of fact, he asked our advice before he bought the ring.

My husband and I spent about an hour and a half explaining all we could about marriage and relationships and divorce and the complexity of remarriage (we blended our families almost 11 years ago), and then he thanked us and went out and bought the ring.

And that’s exactly the way it should work. My husband and I do have a lot of experience and a lot of good advice, but our children can’t truly learn about life until they have experienced it. Until they go out and make some mistakes, they can’t celebrate the successes. [For the record, I don’t think it was a mistake for my son to get engaged; I am thrilled for both of them!]

As parents, we invest so much time and energy into trying to prevent our children’s mistakes. We intervene to repair their friendship squabbles. We push and nag them to get their homework done and study for tests. We wake them up every morning to make sure they are on time. We want them to be happy and successful and mature, and yet none of these things can happen without first falling on their faces a few times.

Failure is the key to success. Think about what a baby looks like as he’s learning to take his first steps. How many times does he pull up and let go only to fall down again? How many times does he fall before he finally takes those shaky first steps? At no point do we think, “Well, this one’s never going to make it! He’s just not a walker.”

That would be absurd! We let them keep trying until they get it, and the beauty of this process is that each time they pull up, each time they take a tiny step only to land on their bottoms, they are building the muscles that will eventually lead to successful walking. Failure is building their muscles!

It’s not easy to watch our children fail. It hurts us as parents to watch them hurt, but there is no better way to help them achieve the big successes than to let them fail in the safety of their homes with us there to lean on.

Failure while they are young is where our children build their muscles for success as adults. When they have arguments with friends, when they don’t turn in a school project on time, when they have a teacher or a boss who seems unusually tough on them, the decisions our children make in those moments are building their muscles so they can be successful in their jobs and relationships as adults. We can give them advice, but it’s really up to them to make the final decision and learn from it. And it’s our job to let them do that.

If you want support in the process of helping your children fail or you would like someone to work with as you fail your way to your own success, sign up for a free session with me. Failure can lead to some amazing successes! Let’s talk about it soon. Until then, much love and happy holidays!

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