Thursday, March 29, 2012

Failure - a good thing?

Chris was lucky enough to grow up active in Boy Scouts of America.  He was also lucky enough to be a part of it with his dad - I love hearing about all the adventures they went on together as part of the group.  I also love to hear about his dad's unique experiences as being a leader and father in Boy Scouts.  One of my favorite stories is how when Scott (Chris' dad) would start to help Chris a little too much with something (instead of letting him figure it out on his own), the other leaders had a code to remind him to let him work it out by himself: "Let's go get a cup of coffee."  Scott would take a step back and leave Chris to his own devices.

One of the top ten qualities I want Cole to inherit from his Daddy is resilience.  I want him to be ok with not always succeeding at something he tries to do.  I want him to keep trying, to realize that effort is the important part, not just the outcome.

This article about how a town is canceling their annual Easter Egg hunt because of parent over-involvement, got me to thinking.  I believe part of how our culture can become better parents is by laying off our kids and just letting them succeed (or, sometimes more importantly, FAIL) all on their own.  Because that's life.  Sometimes, no matter how hard you try or how much you deserve it, you are not going to win. And Mama and Daddy are not going to be there to make the boss give you a second chance, or to arrange a do-over on the race so you win.

With Cole, I make a concentrated effort to let him fail sometimes.  He gets frustrated.  He comes to me, crying "UGH! UGH!" (Help!).  And it would be so easy, so helpful, so instantly gratifying to sweep in and help him open the drawer, pull out the book, open the baggie, unscrew the lid...but that only teaches him that he is not capable. To be dependent on us.  That if he can't do something, to go running to Mama, instead of to try harder - or sometimes, to give up. 

So when I see Cole struggling, I always think to myself, "Let's go get a cup of coffee."  My code for remembering to let him be, to let him struggle, suceed, make mistakes, figure it out ALL BY HIMSELF.

Most of the time? Cole tries harder, and often succeeds.  Sometimes?  It just doesn't happen.  He can't open the baggie.  Or he can't unsnap the diaper.  You know what he does?  He fusses and whines for thirty seconds...and then he moves on.  No problem.  Forgets about it and tries again another day.  He is SO ok with occasional "failure" - it bothers me WAY more than it bothers him.

There will be times in life that Cole simply CANNOT accomplish something.  If I don't let him learn that now, how much more difficult will it be for him to learn later?

What are your thoughts on failure and children?

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