Dear Son: It's Okay to Fail - An Open Letter to Generation Z from Generation X
Someone needs to say this to our children: It's okay to fail, my son. It's okay to make mistakes. It's okay to fall down every once in a while. Heck, I fall down all the time - on a daily basis, in fact.
In my experience, what sets those that are ultimately successful apart is that they have the ability to fail and pick themselves back up. Failing at something shouldn't necessarily be the end. It should be a learning experience. Part of my job as a father is to be cliche. Here comes a bit of that responsibility.
Learn From Your Mistakes
Have you ever heard the saying that we learn more from our failures than from our successes? There's a lot of truth to that statement.
We can learn a lot from our mistakes - often times more than we learn from our successes. But we have to take the time to acknowledge our failures and examine why we failed and how we can improve ourselves.
Self-improvement only comes as a result of failure, not out of success.
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Parents, How Can We Honestly Expect Perfection?
I know there are a lot of parents out there that expect perfection from their children. How is that fair?
Perfectionist parents are robbing their children of an important piece of their childhood. They're stealing potentially life-changing learning experiences from them by not allowing them to fail.
I have a perfectionist son in an imperfect world. I spend part of my time teaching him it's okay to be IMperfect. I spend part of my time undoing some of his perfectionist ways. I see colossal disappointment in his future if he doesn't learn how to fail gracefully and learn from his mistakes.
I see his world (proverbially) crashing down around him the first time he experiences anything other than an "A" on a report card. I see him giving up opportunities to discover something he would really enjoy or genuinely be good at if he only took the time to work through his initial failures.
It's Okay to Fail; Not Everyone Can Win Every Time
I don't typically get involved in Facebook debates, but I saw a recent one that was rather interesting. Here's how the debate started:
I honestly think that one of the most important lessons you can teach your child is how to lose at something. It is OK to not be perfect. It is OK to suck at something. Give it your best and you should get the same award for 10th place as 1st. No one is great at everything, but everyone is great at something.
I agree with 99% of this statement, with the only exception being the same award statement.
Just as our children should be allowed to fail, first and foremost, our children should also be allowed to succeed and excel.
Competition can be healthy; it should be healthy. The original poster went on to say this:
Ok I guess I should have specified that we should reward them as parents just as much for first place as tenth. They need to know that its ok to not be perfect and its ok to lose something, and that the world doesn't end when they mess up. Yes, in a contest or game etc there's always a defined winner, but they should all feel like winners just because they gave it their best shot. Just because they don't walk away with the ribbon doesn't mean they didn't win.
I agree. I think it is our job as parents to help build up our children's self-esteem, while also maintaining the balance between "winners" and "losers". We can't always win and as parents we shouldn't always just gush approval, but rather, we should gush support.