Yes, they do. Our children need to fail, so they learn that they can come back from failure. So they learn that failure is simply the first try. We love our kids so much. We work for, and hope for, their happiness. We do not want them to experience sadness, failure, or disappointment. We want them only to experience success and joy, and we do not want their tender psyches to ever take a hit. And, let’s be honest, happy children are easier children. Happy children do not complain (as much), whine (as often), or require as much time and attention.
But failure is a real part of real life. There is no way to avoid sadness, disappointment, and unhappiness. These things, even if painful at the moment, teach children responsibility, resiliency, and independence. These things prepare our children for a successful adulthood, when they are responsible for their own actions and their own feelings. Our job is to teach them today, so they can do it for themselves tomorrow.
Parents of toddlers watch their children closely on the playground to make sure everyone is safe and having fun. Parents of toddlers supervise their older children to make sure the toddler is not being verbally teased and is being given their fair turn. But sometimes toddlers are bored, sometimes they are teased, and sometimes not every child plays fairly. If we immediately intervene every time we feel our toddler is unhappy, how will our toddler learn to speak up for themselves? We do need to immediately intervene in every kind of safety issue, and we do need to teach our toddler how to express themselves. But we don’t need to “rescue’ them from every moment of unhappiness.
Parents call the coach to explain that their child had a headache and that’s why the kid did not do their best at the competitive tryout. Parents call the teacher to explain that they had a family event and that is why their child was too tired to study when they get a low grade on a test. But these calls and excuses do not help our kids understand the truth. Did they not make the team because they did not try their hardest? Did they fail the test because they did not study hard enough? Motivation comes from within, and learning the hard way is sometimes the best lesson. How will our kids learn to do their best when we allow them to get away with a poor effort? We do need to empathize when they are disappointed, and we need to teach them how to handle it when they are sad. But we don’t need to fix every disappointment.
Parents log in to their teen’s school web site to monitor every homework assignment and every quiz score. Parents continue to feel it is their responsibility to get their teen to school on time in the morning. But this close and careful supervision does not help our teen learn to be responsible and independent. Teens need to learn the natural consequences of being late to school and of not turning in their homework. Our teens will be in college soon, and will not have their parents around to protect them from their own mistakes. Parents must make sure that their teen knows how to handle disappointment and failure when we are not there to help them.
So empathize when your children fail; share stories of your own failures; give them a hug if they need one; help them express their feelings with words. But do let them fail.