Monday, 28 April 2014

Failing better.

This was a surprisingly good weekend. I say 'surprising' because it was just me and the little wrens at home in the nest. We had two lazy mornings followed by two 8 year old birthday parties for Master Wren, which meant that missy and I had some girly time. On Saturday this involved some light shopping after a little lunch at Carluccio's with friends.

I got these:

Dior Addict Extreme Limited Edition Lipstick (Shade 551 Aventure),
Diorskin Nude Tan Matte (shade 003 Cinnamon Matte)

Missy got these:

M&S Girls Slip-On Giraffe Trainers

At lunch with some schoolmum friends of mine the conversation got around to how we are mollycoddling our children. How we cosset them so much that we fear we may be doing them a disservice. My children are 7 and 5 years old (and only a couple of months away from their birthdays) and still when we are crossing the road, I make them hold my hand. I talk them through the process just as I did when they were toddlers "there's the green man. Okay - go!" and we wondered if they may need a little toughening up?

As if to prove this point, when I later turned up at the party to collect my son he came across the room to me in tears because he "was the only one who didn't get a sweet" in any of the party games. I went through the usual spiel of "Well, people only got sweets if they won the game, didn't they? You can't always win, darling." But it didn't cut it - especially since he'd already managed to guilt a sweet out of the party entertainer with those sad little beautiful blues.

We hover over our children these days so much. Driving them to school, from school to afterschool activity after afterschool activity. We're scared to let them walk to the end of the drive without us for fear of what dangers may lurk outside the safe cotton wool-like haven of the family home. We let them take so few risks for fear that they may hurt themselves. But what are we actually protecting them from? And, really when we look at the big picture are we really helping them at all?

This reminded me of a Radio 4 programme I was alerted to by my lovely aunt. It was part of a series entitled The Value Of Failure and it talked about how, in this culture of non-competitive Sports Days, there is this tendency by modern parents of letting our children believe that they are brilliant at everything. It also said that this everyone's a winner mentality is actually holding our children back.

This episode was a discussion with a headmistress about how she teaches the girls at her school to 'fail well'. What that means is that it is okay for your child to do badly at something - they can be rewarded for their endeavour and encouraged to try again. That we should develop in them the attitude of 'Okay, I didn't quite get it right this time. How can I improve next time?' We need to prepare them for failures in life, because they happen (often!) and because the more we fail, the easier we find it to deal with. 

Young children are actually incredibly resilient and open to trying new things and risk taking is part of a baby's every day life from their first moments - just think of a toddler taking that first step across the seemingly enormous open space between two sofas. We are not born with a fear of failure but it becomes ingrained in us as we grow up. We need to tell our children that it's okay to try something and be terrible at it. We need to teach them how to approach life with an "I'll give it a go!" attitude, and if 'it' doesn't go well to think about how it might go better next time. To empower them to take the risk and learn from it.

Children can feel very anxious about getting things wrong - they have a tendency to want things to be just right - and in this there is a great danger that it will stop them from being the very best that they can be. They will tend to play safe rather than take a leap and potentially fall. "The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure" said Sven Goran Erikson and as surprising as it might be to find a quote from a football manager on this blog, I think he was right. If you are frightened to ever take a risk, frightened to ever push your own boundaries for fear of doing something wrong then you will never achieve your full potential.

It may feel like an alien concept in this age of helicopter-parenting to allow our children to fail at anything - modern parents protect our children so much that we hardly ever let them so much as even fall. But aren't we really just delaying the inevitable pain and disappointment of that first failure?
If, as a child you have never tried anything and failed at it how are you going to cope when it happens to you as an adult? So, come on, as hard as it may be let's try to take off those kid gloves. Let's raise a generation of fearless risk-takers who will take a leap, fall, dust themselves off and leap higher and further next time. A resilient horde of world beating superheroes who can take whatever life throws at them. 


  1. LOVE this article! (and I also love those adorable shoes you got your daughter!) :) Great post!

  2. Thank you so much! A version of it has been sat in Blogger Drafts for a month. Such a coincidence that I read your post, then had that conversation (& tantrum) in the space of a few days. Really crystallised the ideas for me. Thanks again.