The Ways We Teach Our Children to Fail

Today I realized I was setting my daughter up for failure. My husband’s been trying to point it out to me, but I hadn’t seen. Today, as I joked about the situation with a friend, I saw. I clearly saw what I was doing and how this would impact my daughter not only now, but likely for the rest of her life.

I’ve been a homeschooling mama for 6 years. This year our oldest daughter decided to go to school for grade 7. It’s been a difficult transition in some ways. We’ve never really done book work before, she’s never taken a quiz. If she’s gotten something wrong in the past, she’s always been given an opportunity to learn from her mistakes and move forward. But school doesn’t give you that opportunity. You get a quiz, you pass or fail. That’s it. No do over.

person s wearing white and black low top sneakers

Other than learning how to ‘school’, things have been pretty easy for her. The work is only a slight stretch, but there’s so much homework. It’s completely overwhelming to both of us.

As I talk to our friends about this transition, I complain. I tell them I wish she would just come home again. Then we laugh about children having their own ideas.

Mother Knows Best – Or Does She?

As parents, we often believe we know best. When we allow our children to make their own choices, we do so with a superior attitude. We fall into one of three categories. Either we keep silent and allow our children to fail, we step in/take over and don’t allow them to try, or we provide them with feedback/guide them to being as successful as possible.

I’ve been keeping quiet.

I thought I was doing it to protect her. That’s the hardest part of parenting. We want to protect our children, but sometimes our ‘protection’ causes more harm than good. I worried that saying anything would sway her to quit. I don’t want her smothered under the pressure. I sent a letter to her teacher, and I will be talking to a counsellor at the school to help her. These are all things I should have been doing with her instead of for her.

man standing beside his wife teaching their child how to ride bicycle

I told myself I was doing it to help her, but really I was doing it because I want her home. I hadn’t seen that until today. I give her power over her own choices if I involve her in the decisions and solutions as much as possible. But I take that power away when I leave her out of these conversations. I was keeping all the power for myself.

Parents often do this to their children. We make decisions based on information we have. After all, we can assess a situation and understand a lot more than our children do with less information. But they need to learn how to make these assessments on their own. One day they won’t have us to make these decisions, so we need to guide them now and show them what information we took and how we used it to come to our conclusions.

Why do we do this?

If you Love Someone, You Have to Let Them Make Their Own Mistakes

I think most of us do this for two reasons. One, we love our children and don’t want to see them struggle. Two, we did not learn how to guide our own decision making when we were young. Often we were told we weren’t smart enough or our ideas weren’t good enough. We hold onto those messages. They become a part of us. Then we pass them onto our children. We believe children are not smart enough or their ideas aren’t good enough because that’s what we were told.

Through our words and actions (or lack of words/action) we can either help our children or hold them back. If we don’t guide them by showing them how to gather information, this sets them up to fail. We can say, “I told you so”, give them a hug, and keep them close. But did we really ‘tell them’ if the information or support we withheld could have changed the outcome?

Sometimes parent’s actions deliberately get in the way of our children. We were at a playground and my daughter was jumping off a piece of playground equipment, a bigger child came over and started to jump. HIs mom told him he’d fall if he tried. He still tried. She reached out (to catch him) and tripped him. He fell and crashed. Her intent was to save him, but her actions created the problem she warned about. She didn’t even (seem to) notice.



Things To Think About:


How often do we get in the way and create problems for our children? How often do we get in our own way and create problems for ourselves?

Our belief that a problem exists is sometimes enough to create it.

It’s time to look at your beliefs and how you act on them. Do you sabotage yourself or your loved ones? How can you shift your mindset so you can shift your actions?

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