Let Them Fail

25.01.2019 |

Episode #6 of the course Helping your child become a better student by Rebecca Jordan


In yesterday’s lesson, we talked about what it means to be a “lawnmower” parent and the dangers of eliminating all obstacles from your child’s life, especially in school. Today, we are going to take that concept one step further and discuss the significance of letting your children fail in school every now and then to serve as a learning opportunity.

Jumping without a net. This is a terrifying possibility for type-A parents. Trust me, it takes one to know one. However, if you don’t let your children fail or suffer consequences of their actions or decisions, then you will be cleaning up their messes from here on out. You will have no choice but to be a “lawnmower” parent if you don’t prepare them for the possibility of failing. It is essentially a process of gradual release. If you have prepared them in all the ways you have anticipated them running into problems (see Lesson 5), then you have brought the proverbial horse to water, and it’s up to them to take a drink. Therefore, in order for your child to understand the value of this learning, they need to see the consequences when they do not follow through with your instructions.

Resisting the temptation. Do not—I repeat, do not—run up to the school demanding to get a key into the teacher’s classroom to get that math book, do not email the teacher at 9:00 pm for them to send you a copy of the Reading Test Study Guide, do not go back to school to pick up their laptop. They have to suffer the consequences of their actions in order to remember not to repeat this behavior. Maybe it’s tough love, maybe I’m a “Tiger Mom,” maybe I’m too tough, but if you do not let them fail—fail that test, get a low homework grade, get points taken off of a project grade, etc.—they will never experience the negative feeling that they will not want to experience again. It’s going to hurt you more than it will hurt them, but where do you go from here?

Being there when they fall. Since the moment we began parenting, we have been there when they’ve scraped their knee or bumped their heads with an ice pack and a Band-Aid. Did you immediately put them in a plastic bubble and pad every service in your home to prevent inevitable injuries? No. You let them fall, but you are there to help them get up. This is the perfect analogy for letting them fail at school. So, they suffered the consequence of doing poorly on a test because they didn’t study the material or they left it at home. Discuss what could be done the next time to avoid this, come up with an action plan, and get to the root of the issue. Not only will your child shed light on how this came to be, but by being supportive and not becoming immersed in an “I got ya” type of scenario, your child will come to trust you and continue to keep the lines of communication open.

Now that your child has revealed what their weaknesses are in terms of study skills, we are ready to jump into tomorrow’s lesson: time management.


Recommended book

1-2-3 Magic: 3-Step Discipline for Calm, Effective, and Happy Parenting by Thomas Phelan


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