Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Fear of Failure
From the very beginning of our lives, we learn by failing. Crawling, standing, walking...all of those skills are learned by failing repeatedly until we've mastered them. Parents expect their little ones to fail. No one rushes forward to rescue the kid. It's a normal part of life.
When they're older, they learn other skills with the same fail/succeed ratio. Riding a bike. Dribbling a ball. Making a grilled cheese sandwich. Spelling separate (it has "a rat" in it). Learning to write cursive. Adding and subtracting. But I've noticed that parental willingness to allow children to learn by consequences sharply diminishes as the kid reaches their teens.
I don't advocate allowing them free rein. Our culture and society is based on rules. We're expected to obey basic laws. Don't steal. Don't kill. It's the parents' job to rear their kids with respect for the law.
Some of life issues are a bit more abstract. Working for what you want. Delayed gratification. Getting back up when we fail and trying again. If you give a kid everything they ask for, why would they work for it? If they never have to wait for something, how will they learn to wait?
I propose failure and dealing with the consequences is the way we learn how the world works. The rush to protect children from failure prevents their development of coping mechanisms. Look at it this way--suppose we play checkers with our child and we always let him win. Why would he learn the strategy he needs to know to win on his own?
Instead of being ashamed of failure, we should celebrate every time we get back up and try again. That is the essence of success.