I’ve written before about how failure can be an important part of God’s character-building process in our lives. Here, in his book Navigating Life With More Than Enough, Todd DeKruyter talks about how parents need to let their children experience failure and avoid constantly rescuing them from life’s dilemmas and difficulties. —Randy Alcorn
Hear how Michael Jordan speaks of failure: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.
Watching your children fail is much harder than you might expect. Many of us high achievers solve problems for a living. We need to fight against stepping in, constantly fixing problems, or helicopter parenting. Townsend and Cloud, in their book Boundaries With Kids, have a beautiful exchange that grabs the picture here of letting the child learn through failure. They say parents need to stop “running interference.”
Imagine a child late on the project who has to have certain supplies tonight in order to do the project by tomorrow. Instead of running to the store to teach them the lesson that mom and dad will bail them out, what if you responded like this:
“Mom, I need some glue for my project.”
“Sorry, dear, I don’t have any.”
“But I have to have it. The project’s due tomorrow.”
“What teacher would call and give you an assignment at this hour without enough time to get the supplies?”
“Come on, Mom. She gave it to us at school.”
“Two weeks ago.”
“Oh. So you have had two weeks to get glue and your other supplies?”
“Yes, but I thought we had them.”
“Oh, that’s sad. Seems like I remember this happening with the felt you needed for your last project. Well, I don’t have any and it’s past my bedtime. So I hope you can figure out something to make that does not require glue. Good night, honey. I’m pulling for you.”
Wow! Now that is teaching the kid to learn how to control himself. It lets him fail early enough in life where it’s not too crazy of a consequence, and it’s just good parenting.
Struggle is good. Let our kids want, work, and learn. Failure is a great teacher. There is much even in MBA courses and business schools lately about failure being a good teacher. There are loads more quotes from people who have accomplished much about how much failure taught them. What about the child who has cash to help them avoid failure? What will they learn? What lesson is learned when the parent swoops in like a helicopter and bails the young ones (or not so young ones) out of trouble? Money can buy me out of trouble? Is that the lesson you want them to hear?
We teach so much in those moments. Let’s teach well.