Parenting AdviceTV interview about parenting advice for failure

One of the Best Gifts to Give Your Kid is Failure

You know everyone thinks they’re above average, right?

It’s hard to be self-aware, especially about parenting.

But just like 80% of drivers say they’re above average….

…parents have a bias about how much they’re letting kids fail.


Encouraging risk-taking and learning from failure is the single greatest way your child will learn.


So here’s my advice on:

  1. The guidance your kids really want…or don’t want
  2. 4 tips for letting kids fail (most parents are guilty of #2)
  3. The consequences of NOT letting kids fail


The Guidance Your Kids Really Want

“Just try to trust me.” That’s what most kids want to say.

Most kids really want the freedom and responsibility to make decisions for themselves.

….It’s something I hear a lot.


Kids are always telling me, “My parents don’t trust me and they’re constantly micromanaging me.”


Kid annoyed rolling eyes 

By giving kids freedom to make decisions, we are not only teaching them responsibility but teaching them how to succeed on their own.


…and if their decisions don’t work out as planned, then refer to those moments as gifts of learning.


It’s not just a reframe, it’s the real world.


We learn the most from falling down and getting up.


This is what kids want: the freedom to make responsible decisions for themselves.


Actually… let me rephrase that: kids want the freedom to make decisions for themselves.


(Let’s be honest, they’re a lot less interested in making responsible ones!)


So where’s the right place to draw the line with that freedom? Keep reading to learn my top 4 tips.


4 Ways You Can Start Letting Kids Fail


  • Communicate with your child. Come up with a plan together. Ask questions like: “How do you want to handle this? Do you want this freedom? Let’s work towards it.”


  • Reinforce the concepts of hard work, determination, and responsibility. I’m talking about participation medals here. You only get first, second, or third place. All a participation medal does is teach children, “No matter what I do, I just have to show up and I get my award.”


  • Give freedom that’s developmentally appropriate.

BAD example: Your kindergartener leaves their lunch on the table and you let it sit there all day. You tell your child after school: “You starved today because I saw your lunch on the table, but I chose not to tell you.”

GOOD example: Your fifth grader leaves their lunch on the table and you let it sit there all day. You think to yourself, “They’ll figure out a way to get lunch. I’m going to leave it there.” It’s a tough choice to ignore your fifth grader’s lunch all day, but likely one you won’t have to do often because they will learn from it quite quickly.


  • Think about the little things. These are things that wouldn’t have a huge impact on your child but would be just enough to matter.

For a kindergartener: They forget to bring their doll to a playdate. You say: “Oh you forgot your doll… you were going to play dolls at your friend’s house, maybe next time.”

For a high schooler: They are running around and can’t find their keys, but you know where they are. That might be the time to say, “We talked about an organizational system,” or maybe “Let’s think this through. What can we do to help you be more organized?” NOT, “Here are your keys.”


The Consequences of NOT Letting Kids Fail

If you aren’t letting kids fail, then we’re left with a whole group — right now post-millennials — in college that


Just. Don’t. Understand.


“What do you mean I don’t get extra time on my test?” We even have parents calling college professors.


Behavior follows kids as they grow up, and if you aren’t letting kids fail, then your child will be ill-prepared for adulthood.


Kids need to see their real grades.


They need to see their real outcome in a match.


You are missing a great parenting opportunity that can be met with love and support if you never let them fail.


There’s Good News

You can be motivated to start letting your kid fail by knowing that they will benefit by learning from disappointments or losses.


There are always ways to parent and keep teaching your kids.


We want to raise responsible, well-balanced kids, and this is a great way of doing it.


Don’t think of it as failure, just learning from your mistakes.


It’s truly a gift you can give your kids.

(9 News interview can be viewed here)


Sheryl Ziegler, Psy.D. is a Doctor of Psychology who specializes in children and families. She is the author of the upcoming book, Mommy Burnout, How Addressing Yours Will Make You A Better Mother And Create A Better Life For Your Children. Dr. Ziegler is the mother of three children in Denver, Colorado. You can follow her parenting advice in her newsletter by signing up today.

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