“Let Them Fail” Is Not Uniform #TeacherMom

The benefits of failure are becoming more and more widely discussed. Perfectionism is getting the boot it deserves. Messy learning is finally gaining the acknowledgement that it’s due. And I’m thrilled!

However, I’ve noticed another trend along these lines that’s of a little more concern to me, though it can be tricky to spot.

To me, it’s in the form of these signs. Or in the form of comments that take stories like this one & declare that this is how it should be for all children to teach responsibility.

Like I’ve said before, there’s nothing inherently wrong with these signs or with this story. In fact, in many circumstances, these are great examples of allowing our children to fail in order to help them grow.


What makes this tricky is that allowing our kids to fail does not look the same for all children for all circumstances. But sometimes, we make it look like it is.

Which is problematic because then you have parents and teachers who feel like weighing the circumstances is no longer an option–that they must always apply “tough-love” in order to allow their children to learn from failure. And that to do otherwise is an automatic fast-track to entitlement.

It’s problematic because it sweeps away the messy process of working one-on-one with a child, leaning more in favor of one-size-fits-all policies.

And it’s problematic because it can get us focusing too heavily (sometimes still exclusively) on the behavior aspect of failure.

Now, I support and appreciate approaches like Love & Logic. But it’s SO important to remember that relationships are complex and must be approached on an individual basis. What might be the suitable consequence for one child in one context might not be for another. Anything that encourages us to stop listening and start mandating should give us pause. 

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto 

2 Replies to ““Let Them Fail” Is Not Uniform #TeacherMom”

    1. Thank you, Norah! This was reinforced for me yet AGAIN shortly after I published this post: I was mad at my 6 year-old because when I dropped her off for school, her class was lined up in the distance and just about to go in. I told her to run to catch them, and she did for the first little bit, but then walked. I had to move on in the carpool parking, but later, I was very stern with her because I knew she’d probably gotten a “tardy” for being late. I fumed and chastised and let her know just how disappointed I was that she’d disregarded what I’d asked her to do. After a while, she told me, “Mom, I’m really sorry I walked. I was just afraid of slipping on the snow.”

      Of course! She had just slipped a couple days before and really hurt her tailbone. But the narrative that I had in my head was that she simply didn’t want to run; that she wanted to “do her own thing” as always and use another door; that she was being deliberately defiant.

      I need this reminder repeated just as often (maybe more) as anyone working with children: We must listen. That doesn’t mean we’re looking to hear excuses or rid our children of personal accountability. But the fact is, it’s easier for us to shift all the blame in the name of “teaching responsibility” than it is for us to sit down, step back, and search for understanding. Relationships are anything BUT black-and-white.

      Thanks again for your comment, Norah!

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