The Teacher is Talking: What if the Best Success is Failure?

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By Leslie Lindsay

A little over a year ago, an article was penned by Paul Tough in the NYTimes Magazine.  It was entitled, “What if the Secret to Success is Failure?”  Read that again.  The best success might very well be failure?  It caused quite a stir and resulted in many letters to the editor.  (You can read the article yourself here http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/18/magazine/what-if-the-secret-to-success-is-failure.html?_r=1).  Now, I am not going to bother analyzing the article or offering my own editorial opinions, but I will say there is a little something to this.  success-and-failure-sign(image source: http://www.worldcupblog.org/world-cup-2010/soundoff-was-world-cup-2010-a-success-or-failure.html)

Even Ben Franklin thought so, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”  Ring a bell?  (Oh, wait…that’s Pavlov).  Oh, but digress…

From personal experience, I can say that they things I have done in my life that leave me with the most sense of self pride have been things I have tried to do–and wanted to do badly–but first failed.  Even a little bit.  Successful folks get that way because they won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.  Successful people keep trying; they look for another way to do the same thing, they read more and learn more.  They network.  They set personal goals.  They have gumption.  And that is really a great set of skills to equip your child with. 

“In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.” –Bill Cosby. 

As parents, we all want our children to be responsible (response-able; able to respond)  and of course we want them to be successful.  But, how many times can we do things for them?  Yep, you know what I am talking about.  I get weird, too and correct my 2nd grader’s math homework, even if it is just a tiny thing, like her 1 looks like a 7.  I And how many times have you run out to Walgreens to pick up posterboard for a project that is due in the morning.  I’ve served organic milk and mashed up my own baby food.  I have read countless books on parenting and child development and enrolled my kids into classes upon classes…I even went through a stage where the only games and toys we’d have were strictly educational. 

So what if we are doing our kids a disservice by providing all of these things?  Maybe our children would be better served if we let them stumble and fall a few times on the soccer field (they probably will anyway)?  What if we let them go a whole day at school without their lunch that they left behind on the kitchen counter after you said about 30 million times to put in her backpack.  No, she won’t die of starvation if she skips one meal.  And what if we didn’t run up to school with that forgotten library book?  Would the world come to an end?  I don’t think so. (image source: mommygaga.com 10.23.12)

Instead, our children begin learning that there are consequences to their actions, behaviors, and even thoughts…and that is quite a powerful message.  In fact, it teaches self-sufficiency, responsibiliy, problem-solving, and tenacity.  All of which are wonderful skills for a successful person. 

You will find that this is HARD!  You want–with every bone in your body–to protect your child from the blows of life.  But, remember this is an important step in parenting smart, successful, and independent children–the future of our world. 

Watch this touching video as Derek Redmond (an Olympic runner) as he is thrown in face of adversity.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZlXWp6vFdE&feature=youtu.beI promise, you will go hug your child(ren) after you see this. 

Let ’em shine! 

[No compensation has been given for this post.  It is a topic that inspires and motives me to become a better parent.  Paul Tough (author of the cited article above) has also written a book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character.  Check it out!  I know I plan to!]Product Details(image source: Amazon.com 10.23.12) 

For more information on this book and author Paul Tough, see http://www.paultough.com

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