Why we want our kids to fail

Numerous times we have watched our kids avoid situations or challenges because they thought they would not do well.  One of my daughters did two days of basketball tryouts only to skip the final mandatory day where they were announcing the team.  I had watched the practices and she played better than the majority of the girls.  It looked clear she would make the team. I was so confused.  After a lot of discussion I realized she skipped it because the chance of being told her best was not good enough would hurt more then just skipping the team all together.  This made me so sad. It also made me think about the times in my life where I have done the exact same thing.

Last Monday night we called our family together and said we needed to have a family discussion.  One of my kids said “Ya, ya, ya… we know, the house is a mess and we need to work as a team to keep it cleaner.”  I thanked her for her awareness and suggestion but explained that was not what we wanted to discuss tonight.  I said “Dad and I want to discuss how we want you kids to fail.”  They started laughing and were like “That’s funny.”  I assured them we were serious and we not only want them to fail we want them to fail often.  At this point they were all quiet and looking at me like I had lost it.  The rest of the discussion went something like this…

If you are not failing you are not pushing yourself to do hard things and improving. We want you to try the things that push you out of your comfort zone.  Sometimes this will pay off and bring you happiness and sometimes your best will not be good enough.  We still love you.  We will always love you.  Our love is not contingent on your success.  We want you to try your best and never give up because of the fear of failing.  We love you even when you fail.


 One of my friends was telling me how her son is a really good soccer player but has been on horrible teams.  For two years in a row they lost every single game.  Although as a parent she wanted to help him and get him on a different team, she decided against it.  She explained in detail how he learned and grew more in those two years of losing then he would have ever learned from wining. When his team finally won a game the victory was sweet, but he also felt compassion for the team that lost.  Even when your best is not good enough, you will always learn and grow from your losses.

Some of my best wake up calls came from papers that came back covered in red ink. I had a roommate in college whose mom was still correcting her papers and even writing some of her reports. That mother had robbed her daughter of self confidence. She couldn’t do anything without her mom’s help or approval. We have total confidence in each of you. We will not do things you can do for yourself, even if you think we can do it better.

We discussed THIS article I had read about a researcher from Stanford named Carol Dweck that has been studying what motivates kids to keep trying and not give up.  We all found it facinating.

We learn more by getting questions wrong, loosing soccer games, not making the basketball team and not getting a perfect score on a paper. So if you are afraid of failing, then you are afraid of learning.

Salmon Kahn (the developer of Kahn Academy) explains it perfectly “The brain grows most by getting questions wrong, not right.”


5 thoughts on “Why we want our kids to fail

  1. Nicely worded Chanel. Our family motto the last few years has been “I can do hard things”, and I love the thought of how that can extend to failures as well. Life can be bitter, but oh how sweet when a success follows a failure. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  2. vikki

    Hey Chanel, happy to follow your blog. I enjoyed your post. Being a seasoned mother I totally agree with what you said. My son Adam tried out for the soccer team every year and didn’t make it until his senior year. We were all so proud of that moment when he finally reached his goal. Even prouder than if he had been the star player for the whole four years. Good advice. I had a friend who said you need to be like a turtle, you never get anywhere until you stick your neck out.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. lara anders

    What a great reverse psychology idea! We as moms are great at encouraging our kids to try new things, try their best, and be successful in this life. After all – don’t we learn at an early age that success is that defining moment that confirms our self-worth? But I love how you’ve turned it upside down because now you’ve redefined success as “failing.” That’s going to make a kids’ head spin


  4. lara anders

    Oops didn’t mean to click post just yet :/ anyway to wrap up, I like your new spin on life. If we’re too afraid to try because of an underlying fear of failure, then we’ve already lost. To refocus or redefine success as failing sends the message first and foremost that failing is ok. That contradicts everything we’ve ever been taught. But it sends a more important message which is – you are ok if you fail. I still love you even if you fail. That’s unconditional love and that’s what we all need a lot more of.
    Thanks for your post. Very thought provoking.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s