We all want to comfort our children after they suffer any kind of failure or disappointment. It’s only natural. But the best parents I’ve met have resisted the urge to “make it all better.”
Instead, they ask a simple question: “What happened?”
The question is asked kindly and respectfully, but the intention is clear: to help the child understand why she didn’t reach her goal. Where did she go wrong? Was she unprepared? Did she not work hard enough? Or is her talent simply in another area?
This kind of questioning may seem rather sophisticated for a young child, but will teach an important lesson: failure can be viewed as a springboard to improvement, not as a dead-end or a reason for self-pity.
Would most parents like to provide a disappointment-free life for their kids? Probably. But stop and think for a moment: Is that realistic? Do you know anyone who has not had to confront disappointment or failure? Given that reality, dont we do our kids a greater kindness when we support them in learning from disappointment than when we try to shield them from it entirely?
Parents who react to their children’s failures in this manner provide skills that will last a lifetime. In other words, they raise people who are able to recognize their own competence — and never give up!
This is so true! I have worked with many parents over the years who have gone out of their way to shield their children from any adverse experiences only to watch helplessly as their children crumble when they reached adolescence or early adulthood because they don’t have the internal resources to respond in a healthy productive manner. Part of becoming a resilient well-functioning adult is learning how to deal responsibly and effectively with adversity.
Sometimes I think people get hung up on semantics. Failure sounds like a death sentence. Do you ever notice that kids may earn an “F” on a test or assignment, but we don’t actually say what happened, they FAILED to meet the standards. Whatever the word you use (hey, an opportunity to use the thesaurus), make sure that you convey that you remember that its all part of the range of opportunities to learn. With each try, regardless of your grade, you are still learning if you are applying yourself. The direction we choose has more to do with helping us find our way. Our job as parents or adults is to cheer them and encourage them to keep trying. Life is about the direction of our journey.
Maryellen De Vine
Thank you for this good reminder for incorporating into our parenting toolbox.
It’s our good intentions that get us in trouble, right? Thanks for your comment.
I can relate. You definitely want to protect your children and there is a fine balance between protecting them and sheltering them. I’m teaching my 6 year old accountability. Last week he turned in his project a day late and I had him write a note to his teacher about how he failed to follow directions. Could I have covered for him, sure. but he has to learn to be responsible.
Learning that actions have consequences is a big, big step. Good job.