I have a wise friend who is a kindergarten teacher. I was asking her for suggestions about how to help get kids ready for kindergarten and she said in part: “In order for your children to know how to solve problems, you have to let them have problems; in order for your kids to know how to handle mistakes, you have to let them make mistakes; in order for your kids to know how to handle disappointments, you have to let them have disappointments-Handling little problems is like an immunization to handling big problems in the future.” This idea was carried forward when I recently heard this TED Teen talk by a couple of college students: https://vproud.tv/conversation/3287/the-importance-of-failure-do-you-allow-your-child-to-experience-failure?utm_source=GB061615&utm_medium=Contributor&utm_campaign=ImportanceofFailure. in it, they discuss their experience with failure and the importance of talking about it.
Now let me be clear- I don’t mean allowing your child to jump off of the top of the slide dressed in his superman cape in order to experience whether or not his cape will allow him to fly, I mean that sometimes No is the appropriate response to a request and the subsequent disappointment does not need to be assuaged by the promise of something else. Sometimes the experience of having a friend cancel at the last minute leaving your child with an afternoon of nothing to do is the perfect time to let your child figure out how to entertain herself, feel bored or experience “the fertile void” where nothing is happening and everything is possible.
As a parent, it is exceedingly difficult to see your child sad, hurt, lonely or disappointed, but haven’t you experienced these emotions numerous times? How have you learned to cope? Talk to your child about the failure, disappointment or a mistake and help him/her see the gift within.
“There is a crack in everything That’s how the light gets in.” ― Leonard Cohen
So this summer, think about letting your child fail, experience disappointments and make mistakes…then help them see the light. It could be the most successful summer yet!