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The Importance of Failure: Why We Need to Let Kids Just Be… Kids

ExpertsPost Category - ExpertsExpertsFamily LifePost Category - Family LifeFamily Life

Who knew failing was such a key part of growing up? As much as we want our kids to excel and succeed (as quickly as possible, of course!) it turns out failure is as crucial as anything to building resilience and grit

You know how parents always want the best for their children and try to give them a better childhood, usually stemming from their own personal experiences and life-learned lessons? Turns out that really is not the best thing we can we do for our little ones.

I’ve finally come to accept that rushing kids and imposing our ‘wisdom’ is not the way to go about life. Kids need to experience and learn for themselves, sometimes with less than desirable consequences. Indeed, hindsight is a brilliant contrivance, but even if you want your kids to benefit from the lifelong combined acumen of your mistakes, life unfortunately doesn’t work that way most days. They need to have their own pitfalls and struggles to mould them into smart adults with substance and grit – and sometimes the only way to do that is to not hurry kids and to let them take their time growing up.

Of course, it’s another matter entirely that you may have pulled out all the hair on your head by the time they do become said adults.

Personally, my twins are hitting the decade milestone soon, and I’m finding that as they are growing up, they seem to be struggling more with ad hoc changes to their usual routine and grazes with unfamiliar circumstances, rather than being able to boldly look change in the eye and take it by the horns. For instance, they both were largely careworn getting back into the daily schedule after the Christmas holidays, despite it being merely a new semester (not a new class or school year). So nothing had really changed around them and as a mom, I confess I didn’t take any pride in seeing them like this since it was life as usual. As far as I was concerned, anyway. But reluctantly, I admit that there is nothing much I can do about it apart from giving them a rock solid promise of love and patience – unless of course you count nagging, frequent meltdowns and going blue in the face giving them endless advice.

The bottom line is that everyone grows up at different rate, and there isn’t be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ measure in play here. Kids will take the time they need and there is no point quickening that process. Believe me, I’ve tried! In saner moments of calm and normality, I truly know I can’t stop or slow down kids growing up, but I certainly don’t have to rush it either at irate times like this. Let children be children, because all too soon, they’ll grown up anyway.

Says Vinti Mittal, Director SACAC Counselling Pte Ltd, “An important evaluation that parents have to make when it comes to addressing this irk or impatience is Are they raising the children they want, not the ones they have? If the parent is raising a kid that they want, what is making them do that? Does it stem from parental pressure because they are engaging in competitive parenting, or is it that parents see their children as extensions of themselves, making their children’s successes their own second chance?

In fact, Vinti adds that the pressures on kids today start much too early. “Kids need to have fun and grow at their own pace, and the pace varies with each child. Too much pressure too early naturally increases the probability of them being burnt out.”

Emphasising that children need to explore, innovate, feel, problem solve, and experience art, music and science experimentation without the fear of failure, she suggets engaging in simple things like free play outside the house, getting injured during play, managing conflicts with friends, getting bored, and doing household chores. Such banal day-to-day things are vital to a child’s development, she says.

Unfortunately, the value of doing such simple things is often overlooked in an attempt to achieve unrealistic academic feats or stand up to peer pressure.

Of course, it doesn’t help either that we (parents and children alike), live in a society where most of us give too much importance to ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ and trying to prove that a child prodigy or genius is somewhere in the making. Not surprisingly, when kids aren’t given enough space and time to develop and grow at their own pace, they run the critical risk of not being able to build character – which contributes to resilience, grit and endurance in the long term.

“Character lays the foundation for a happy, healthy future. Character building starts early in life and matters more in the long run than any college admission or trophy ever,” Vinti maintains. “If parents want their children to build character, confidence, strength and resilience, it is important for the child to face adversity and failure from a young age. One of the most difficult things for any parent is perhaps to see their child fail, but it is vital for them to remember that failure is important to appreciate success”.

I couldn’t agree more there. Yes, we all want happy kids, but as parents, we have to step back from time to time and let them make their own mistakes – so that they can learn from it for a better future. Our job is to just take a deep breath and try and remember that forcing things on children or rushing them to learn something is rarely going to work, no matter how simple it may seem to you or me. Load them up on love rather than advice, encouragement rather than impatience, and a smile rather than frowns… now I just need someone to remind me of this the next time I lose my head!

Lead image sourced via My Destination Singapore. Image #1 sourced via Smile Tutor. Image #2 sourced via Today. Image #3 sourced via Pinterest. Image #4 sourced via Straits Times.

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