Our Story Begins:
Why Failure IS An Option For My Kids
“Good Enough is Perfect!” That is the credo we live by here with Rene at Good Enough Mother. But do you let that philosophy bleed over to your kids? Be honest now, look in that mirror and tell me . . . are you one of those parents?
I bring this up because of an article that came out in the Atlantic this week. In it, Jessica Lahey, an English teacher in Lyme, New Hampshire, says we need to let our children fail.
Of course, she isn’t telling you to leave your kids to get “F’s” and skip school every day. Still, Lahey speaks from personal experience, where she calls parents to inform them that their child is getting an F because they plagiarized their school paper only to be told by “Mom” that the daughter didn’t write the paper, Mom did. She cites a study and informal information from colleagues all talking about those parents. I don’t know about you, but I have met a lot of those parents.
I’m not talking about the people who worry about their kids nor the ones that have concerns about the education their kid is getting. The idea is that many parents are so over-protective of their kids that those same kids have no idea how to learn responsibility. Hit another kid? Well, Mom will make sure I don’t get into trouble. They constantly sit in the office and berate the administration for how other parents act and then scream and holler when their own actions are called on the carpet.
So am I perfect? You should all know by now I’m not. I have one child, Hannah, who was literally failing a couple classes last year. She had some problems to start this year, but I forced her to talk with the teacher and she had to work harder on the rest of the semester to catch back up.
I also have a son who has had a major, horrible time dealing with losing his Mom. Yes, it’s nearly two years since my wife, Andrea, passed away from a strain of pneumonia that was seemingly resistant to antibiotics. Noah, my son, is a fraternal twin, 9-years-old, and he’s had many trips to the principal’s office. Last year he was hitting other students. This year he’s talking back to teachers and refusing to do the work. When the school calls my gut instinct is not to start yelling at them ; it’s to ask what happened from the adults in the room. When Noah’s wrong, he’s simply wrong. Grief or not, sadness or anger, confusion or love, he needs to know there are consequences to his actions.
My oldest, Abbi, had a bout of self-doubt the other day, horrified by a bad critique in her class. My advice? “You’re going to fail and make mistakes. It’s okay to break down at home. But there, stay confident, and own those mistakes. That way you learn and won’t make them again!”
Sure, my life and theirs is harder, bumpier and more work out of necessity. Some days they make their own breakfast because I work earlier. But that necessity has bred self-assurance and confidence. They can do those things. My son knows when he’s right, I have his back, but when he’s wrong, he cannot just “get by” with it. They do their own homework, create their own projects, and write their own stories.
The point Lahey and I am both trying to make is that kids are certainly our most valuable asset. They are also not Humpty Dumpty. They’re going to falter and fail. And we they should.
What about you, are you one of those parents or are you willing to let your kids make mistakes? Do you listen to the teachers or just yell, telling them they’re wrong even when they’re right? Are your kids ready for the real world or have you over-protected them?
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Dave Manoucheri is a writer and journalist based in Sacramento, California. A father of four, two daughters and twin sons, his blog, Our Story Begins, is a chronicle of their daily life after the loss of his wife Andrea, in March of 2011. Follow him on Twitter @InvProducerMan.