The opportunity to fail–the best gift we can give our children

Mo Issa writes:

My parents gave me love, and lots of it, but often faltered in giving me direction. However, the best gift they gave me was the opportunity to fail, and then learn from those failures.

That opportunity not only made me stronger, but also instilled in me a sense of responsibility and independence that has helped me in every aspect of my life.

I look at today’s generation and sense a mood of entitlement. They expect things to be done for them. They shun responsibility and avoid making decisions.

After reading Jessica Lahey’s bestselling book, The Gift of Failure, and with much reflection on my own parenting over the years, I wish I could get my kids back for another four years (yes, I miss them that much!) so that I could change my ways.

I was trying my best as a parent and thought I was a great father. On reflection, however, many factors affected my parenting, not least of which was ego and and a pull to acquiesce to society’s norms.

Do we want our kids to get the top grades, get onto the varsity soccer team, and be around the most popular people because of us—or them? How do we define what is “best” for them, anyway? Is it not based on our criteria and values, rather than theirs?

When we impose our likes, dislikes, and values on our kids, we rob them of their individuality and their own experiences. As Lahey says, “When parents try to engineer failure out of kids’ lives, the kids feel incompetent, incapable, unworthy of trust and utterly dependent.” They are, she argues, unprepared when, “failures that happen out there, in the real world, carry far higher stakes.”

I love the title of her book—The Gift of Failure—because learning how to navigate failure really is the greatest gift that we can bequeath our children. Especially when we also give them our undivided love and complete support.

Through failure, they will learn life-long lessons they could never learn otherwise.


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