I remember as a child, my mother only saw my grades twice per 9 weeks. The first was the mid term progress report, the second was the end of term report card. Other than that, unless a teacher called her for some reason, she had no idea what my grades looked like. She had no clue if I had homework that night, nor if I had remembered to complete projects and turn them in on time. Today, I can log onto my kids’ school site and pull up their grades in a matter of seconds. I know every test score, every missed assignment, and even some of the ones coming down the road.
Because of this, it is nearly impossible for my kids to every fail a subject. If I was a parent who didn’t care, I could avoid looking at the site. I could just let cards fall where they may. As a parent who cares, I can now see the impending failure and begin negotiations. Do we need to hire a tutor? Should we ground our child from electronics until grades are up? Shall I contact the teacher to create some sort of extra credit assignment to make up for missing grades, or find a way to turn in forgotten work even for partial credits?
As far back as I can recall, failure has not been cast in a positive light. If our children fail at school, we ground them until they can become “more responsible” or hire in tutors to fill in education gaps. If our children fail at a sport, we tell them to increase their practice times and dissect their plays to find out where improvements can be made. We do things for them without even asking them to try because we determined what they can and can’t do. And, we reward them for simply trying versus letting them feel the sting of defeat.
We tell kids when they fall to get back up and try again, focusing on continuing to work for success. What about talking about what we learned from failure? Why do we not allow our children to learn the consequences of failing a grade or subject? Why do we take away the magnitude of lessons learned by making mistakes or failing to achieve their goal versus being content to walk away with a participation grade or trophy?
I have learned far more in the moments when I failed at something than when I hit gold right out the gate. When I try something and it doesn’t work out, I must engage my critical thinking skills. Why didn’t this work? What was missing? Did I make a mistake? Was I using the wrong materials or did I miss a step in the process? Or, is there simply a better way? The more I engage my critical thinking skills the better off my next endeavors will turn out. I’ll take those answers and apply them not just to the current project at hand but also in the future.
Don’t be afraid of failure, but learn from it.
When it comes to my children, I would much prefer their failures and mistakes to happen while they are in my home and I can help them grow from it. Too many handle everything for their kids, send them off to college or out into the real world and they don’t understand how to cope with failure. A failed class will result in teaching your children how to better prioritize their time. A failing grade that pulls your child off of the team teaches them about consequences and how to be mindful of the requirements of participation. A repeated grade teaches your children that mom and dad can’t fix everything, and sometimes they have to go through it to grow from it. And, instead of coming to their rescue, it can help our children learn to navigate these issues on their own. My asking the teacher for extra credit opportunities is a lot different than if my kids come up with the idea on their own.
In life failure teaches us what not to do again. It teaches us processes and ways of thoughts that don’t work. It helps us find our way to success.
If I am not failing, I’m not trying enough.
Failure can be a beautiful gift.