Mum-of-two Geraldine Walsh reflects on the importance of allowing our kids to make mistakes.
Hovering over my daughter as she delicately placed the pencil tip to the paper, I resisted the urge to tell her how far she should curl the toe of the letter t. She was learning to write and most certainly did not need me fixating on the accuracy of her letters. My fear of her failure was more reflective of my own fear of failing her. Reminding myself, if she gets something wrong, it is not a bad mark against her education or my parenting.
Allowing our children to fail, make mistakes and forget, is as big a learning process for us as parents as it is for our kids. We tend to hope for success for our children. While there is nothing wrong with positively aiming high for our kids, it leaves very little room for them to get something wrong. We challenge ourselves to protect them from any negativity believing we do it out of love and support. Risk surrounds us. From bullies, from wobbles on skates, from stranger danger.
We overreach and overprotect because when we are there, everything goes to plan and there are no tears. But it’s this desire to build their self-esteem by helping them avoid the uncomfortable potholes of life, which negatively affects them. It counters their ability to protect themselves, be innovative, build resilience, be resourceful and to be ok with making mistakes. Being overprotective blocks our children from willing to be independent and rush toward their potential without fear, without their parents underfoot.
Unless we step back from pushing our children to succeed, we will encourage them to fear failure. In this way, we prevent them from taking a chance on an idea without fear of it being shot down or wrong. Life comes with a mountain of risks and without giving our children the independence to make decisions which have lasting effects, we are not helping them in one of the biggest life lessons.
Failure does not equate failing. Failure is the greatest educator we can have in learning to recover and try again. While often brutal and unpleasant, it teaches us, and our children to trust that they can make their own decisions and that they are more than capable.
I no longer hover in a vague attempt to correct my daughter as she practices her sentences, reads her words or calls out her spellings. There is nothing wrong with failing in order to learn.