The Gift or Failure


The word “failure” usually conjures up uncomfortable feelings. We think back to our own childhood and relate the term to school challenges or discipline. Nowadays, educators are working to get the word out to parents about the benefits of failure. Children have much to learn from failed attempts at accomplishing tasks. Think for a moment about your hopes for your children. Do you want them to demonstrate strength, resilience, and confidence? These skills do not come naturally–they are built.

Each time your child falls down while running, or leaves his book report at home, or gets excluded from a birthday party, you may feel sad for your child and you will want to see them happy again. However, try to keep in mind that if you are the one to pick your child up or run home to get the book report or make a phone call to solicit an invitation to a big party, you are taking away your child’s chance to stand up on his or her own…or you are not allowing your child to discover what the consequence is for being forgetful. You may even, without knowing it, be preventing your child from going through important social steps that lead to the ability to advocate for oneself.

While allowing a child to fail may not seem impactful at the time, imagine your beautiful young child off at college. (Yes, this will happen very fast!) Your child will need to rely on an alarm clock and have the self-motivation to get to class. They will need to learn to connect with roommates and professors and recognize due dates. The reality is that children whose parents have called a teacher to argue for a better grade will struggle to challenge themselves to turn in their work and prepare for their mid-term exams. While teen years and college may seem a lifetime away, the lessons we teach children now become a part of who they are. In Montessori, we value the development of independence and we do this through allowing children to freely explore within safe limits. If they fall, we smile and say “C’mon back up! I know you can do it!” Showing confidence that your child is capable will provide many opportunities for their independence and learning.

For a good read on the topic, read The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey. Copies are available at Reception for $5.