A college freshman working as a summer camp counselor called her parents to vent about how bad things were with her supervisor. It was halfway through the summer and six other counselors had quit because they were unhappy and not having fun.
As the parents talked with their daughter, it was clear she was looking for them to give her an out so she could quit as well. Although the parents realized their daughter was in a pretty tough situation, they actually told her she needed to finish her commitment.
Have you ever watched your child struggle with something to the point that it caused you to feel sick to your stomach, and you wanted to come to their rescue? At that moment, what do you do?
• Sweep in and save them from experiencing further pain?
• Watch from a distance, knowing this is part of growing up?
• Move closer and offer to assist them as they work to figure it out?
In many instances, parents are actually sweeping in to "save the day" instead of letting their children wrestle with anything from a tough game, a difficult teacher, a complicated paper, an honest mistake or a friendship gone awry. Unfortunately, most experts would say well-meaning parents who seek to protect their children from experiencing pain, disappointment and/or failure are actually hurting their children in the long run. Young people who are never allowed to fail, experience consequences or problem solve become adults who lack the skills necessary to deal with adversity, setbacks and failure in life.
School will be starting soon. Beginning with the end in mind, besides academics, what do you want your child to learn this year? If helping your child to be confident, independent and not afraid of failure is your goal, it will require some restraint on your part.
Here are some tips for when your children fail:
• Unless they are in harm's way, avoid fixing it for them.
• Allow them to experience the natural consequences of their actions, even when it is painful to watch.
• When they do fail, talk with them about what happened and what they would do differently next time.
• Instead of taking matters into your own hands, go with your child and stand with them as they learn how to talk with their teacher about the issue.
Failure can be a powerful motivational tool. Instead of viewing your child's failures as a direct reflection of your parenting skills, look at it as one more step in their quest to learning how to be successful in life.
Julie Baumgardner is president and CEO of First Things First. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.