As providers, we work hard to teach kids the skills they need for all kinds of things. We help them understand and stay within our expectations, learn the ropes of friendships, scale the tower at their favorite park, and so much more. We sometimes forget that within all those lessons, we have to allow space for them to try out their developing skills and fail. Failing isn’t something to avoid; it’s something to be embraced, and it comes with its own important lessons.
1. Failure is a natural part of learning and living. We know this instinctively but tend to forget it as we grow older and are faced with outside messages about failure. Think about babies who are learning to walk. We let them slowly pull themselves up, take a tentative step, then fall down. Over and over again. We don’t worry about them never learning to walk or being shamed for not being perfect the first time. We know failing has to happen before the success comes along.
2. Failure teaches resilience. Resilience is one of those traits we all want our kids to have, and failure is one of the best teachers. When kids fail, they learn how capable they really are. Capable of getting back up, of trying again, of learning from their mistakes, of not letting failure define them.
3. Failure becomes no big deal. When kids are allowed to try and fail as part of their everyday life, failure becomes just another thing that happens rather than a highly emotionally-charged event. Sure, at times, they still get upset over losing the game or getting a low grade on a test. But they know the world isn’t going to end, they’ll get the chance to improve and do better, and they feel good about their effort.
It’s hard to watch our kids fail because we want to protect them from anything that may hurt or upset them. However, denying kids the opportunity to fail also denies them the opportunity to grow and learn in important ways.