One of the blogs I read gently cited a study showing that kids who are raised without being allowed to fail turn out to be miserable adults. Of course this is a no brainer, but that doesn't mean that it is easy to watch your child struggle.
For example, Q-Bert is currently participating in an all-star play. It truly was an honor to be asked to be in the play. Out of 150 or so kids only 25 were asked to be in the all stars. Still she was very disappointed in the role she was assigned, and in fact many tears were shed the day she found out. I didn't tell her not to cry. It was ok to be disappointed... even mad. Watching her experience those emotions was hard for me. I gave her a few extra hugs, but I didn't encourage her to wallow in the negative emotions. I also didn't coddle her or spend a lot of energy trying to help her through it. I mentioned that many kids would have liked to get into the all star play and didn't, and I told her that part of doing things like theater was learning to deal with not getting the part you wanted (or not getting a part at all). By the next day she had worked her way through the anger and had accepted the part she was given.
Of course during the competitive season of gymnastics Bear had multiple opportunities to feel disappointed. Early in the season she was still learning the routines because she had only been put on the team a couple months earlier. Her teammates were experiencing early successes at meets and Bear wasn't. I know it was difficult for her, but She struggled through it and was that much better for it. At state she missed first place by .025. That isn't much, but it had big consequences. She didn't get to attend the state awards banquet. She doesn't get her picture in the lobby of the gym. She didn't get a crown. All these things could have been really upsetting for her, and I do think she was frustrated by it. Still she is managing to turn that frustration into motivation for next season.
I don't think my kids are exceptional when it comes to dealing with failure. Quite the opposite in fact. They both cried when they didn't know the answer to a problem on their standardized tests. I do think that I am helping them understand that failure is a part of trying anything worthwhile. I would rather help them make excuses. It would be easier to do that, but that wouldn't prepare them for a lifetime of job interviews and dates. When we step in to "save" our child from failure I wonder who we are really doing I it for.
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