Lessons in Motherhood: Let them fail

There are lots of things that are different now for kids than when I grew up. The Internet is a big one that immediately comes to mind. My kids will never understand that it just didn’t exist. Or the idea that there were only three channels and if we wanted to watch Inspector Gadget we had to be there from 330-4 or we just didn’t see it.

Another thing I have noticed that seems to be is the idea that everyone wins. It is common place nowadays that instead of first and second and third, everyone gets a ribbon.

I don’t want my kids to get a ribbon for everything they do. Part of life is learning to lose. I want my children to know that sometimes you don’t get picked first and you’ll be okay. That part of growing up is sometimes losing at small things so that they will learn to fight and work hard for the big things.

I want my kids to know that you have to work hard and strive for excellence and sometimes you don’t make it. You mess up and aren’t the best. Often in fact you aren’t the best. No one is the best at everything. But someone is the best in that game or that test or that race. And it is OK if it wasn’t you. You can try again and work hard and improve. I want them to know that the next time you try harder you push further and you learn from your mistakes. And you gain determination from working and putting your best effort forward.

Trying over and over and over and over is life and that is how we strive for excellence. That is how discoveries and courage and determination are formed. Many of the inventions in life are because people had to work through problems. I want my kids to know that with problems come solutions.

Watching your child lose is not easy. Especially when they take it hard. I’ve seen my kids not get picked and lose at things and even as a parent it still stings a little bit. I want my kids to also know that sometimes when they’ve done their best effort I am going to  fight for them. I am always on their side and their biggest supporter in life. But sometimes learning from loss is just as important as learning from winning.

Failure is opportunity to try again

How is humanity blessed by everyone being equal? How is the world blessed by everyone being the same? How is the world blessed or growth or development or any of those things if everyone “wins” everything? We are raising a generation of children who think that they deserve a ribbon just for showing up and that even if they put forth no effort whatsoever they can be the best. There is no pride in workmanship or for the effort they have put forth because they don’t have to.

I want my kids to know that if they want something they have to fight for it and work for it. I want my kids to know that they are required to put in the work and that they can do anything.

As a young man, Abraham Lincoln went to war a captain and returned a private. Afterwards, he was a failure as a businessman. As a lawyer in Springfield, he was too impractical and temperamental to be a success. He turned to politics and was defeated in his first try for the legislature, again defeated in his first attempt to be nominated for congress, defeated in his application to be commissioner of the General Land Office, defeated in the senatorial election of 1854, defeated in his efforts for the vice-presidency in 1856, and defeated in the senatorial election of 1858. At about that time, he wrote in a letter to a friend, “I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth.”

Git back up and try again

Winston Churchill repeated a grade during elementary school and, when he entered Harrow, was placed in the lowest division of the lowest class. Later, he twice failed the entrance exam to the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. He was defeated in his first effort to serve in Parliament. He became Prime Minister at the age of 62. He later wrote, “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never, Never, Never, Never give up.” (from here)

As a parent is to protect my children from everything but what good would that do do them. A chicken must fight it’s way out of the egg to survive. I want my kids to have small failures so that they can learn that I will always be waiting to hold them to comfort them and to encourage them to try again. And that they can do anything they put forth the effort to and that the feeling of accomplishing something you have worked for is amazing and so satisfying. I want my kids to learn how to turn failure into success as a child so that when they are an adult they will have the determination to work and try and keep on trying if it doesn’t work the first time.

I want them to strive for perfection by improving themselves every day and working hard and being their best selves. And sometimes that means losing and failing on the way. I want those to be small failures so that they will learn when they are small to fight and work for things when they are grown.

Just Rhonda Footer

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