At the open house for parents on the last day of my son’s LEGO robotics camp, one of the instructors was praising the campers for being able to deal so well with failure. She was pointing out that they were all probably used to things coming very easily, being that they were all pretty bright students. Therefore, failure wasn’t something they were used to facing. The LEGO Robotics camp by nature (as would be the case with engineering in general) is full of failure due to the trial and error process of building and programming. I’m really glad she mentioned that to the kids because I think there are too many parents who are afraid to let their kids fail at anything and will bail them out and make excuses for them every step of the way. And then they never learn that it’s really OK to fail, or at least not be great at everything or get everything right the first time.
It’s OK to struggle with something and make mistakes as long as you don’t give up and you try to learn from those mistakes. I know I always remembered things that I missed on a test or didn’t do right the first time, especially if it was something that had to be pointed out to me. There are plenty of things I figured out on my own though too that I remembered better after I realized my mistake and didn’t want to duplicate that mistake.
Kids also need to learn natural consequences, but many parents don’t allow that to happen. When a child is pulled off the field in a baseball game and has to sit on the bench because the player was warned that would happen if he didn’t pay better attention, that’s a natural consequence. When that child’s parent then chastises the coach for doing so, that parent becomes part of the problem. They are teaching their child that there shouldn’t be any consequences for their actions. It’s usually the same parent who feels the need to comfort their child after the coach talks sternly to the child about making an error during the game, perhaps because they weren’t paying attention. I actually like when other adults (teachers, coaches, etc.) get on my kids’ cases a little if they are not doing what they are supposed to be doing so that I am not the only person who is ever telling them some of these things. I figure that way they may actually pay attention when someone else says it, and maybe they won’t think that I am making a bunch of stuff up that is way off base just to make their life difficult.
Kids definitely need encouragement, so I am not suggesting that we focus on the negatives or hope that they fail, but when they do make mistakes or don’t do well at something, they need to be told it’s OK as long as they realize what to do differently the next time and to keep trying to be successful and not give up. Hopefully, they will see that their hard work and determination paid off and they will be even more proud of their accomplishments. Failure, along with the determination and encouragement to keep improving until they get it right, is one way our children can learn to be successful.
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