5 Reasons Failure is Good for Your Kids
- Jennifer Slattery JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com
- 2016 29 Dec
As parents, we long to see our children succeed. But this desire could cause us to shelter them from situations where they might fail. But what if failure actually helps our children grow qualities necessary for long term success and spiritual health? Conversely, conveying an expectation of perfection can severely stunt their growth and result in a lifetime of insecurities, withdrawal, and fear.
1. Failure, when handled correctly, encourages our children to take healthy risks.
The summer before our daughter’s senior year, she wrestled with some tough class scheduling decisions. Basically, she could choose to take easier classes she knew she’d succeed in and guard her GPA. This in turn would increase her odds of receiving an academic scholarship. Or, she could select a couple of incredibly difficult classes and risk failing them.
Though the money involved concerned my husband and me, I knew her character development would have a much longer lasting impact on her future. We didn’t want her to develop the habit of avoiding situations out of fear.
According to Klint Bitter, Pastor of Kids and Students at Christ Community Church in Omaha, Nebraska, our kids need to become comfortable with failure in order to fully become who God created them to be. “It’s not that we want to normalize failure,” he says, “but we want our kids to be familiar enough with it that it doesn’t freak them out when they fail in the real world. When there’s an environment in which kids are free to fail, when our spoken and unspoken responses to our kids drives home the truth that their beloved status doesn’t depend on their [success], our kids are unshackled and can more freely dare to take God-honoring risks.”
2. Failure provides an opportunity for kids to develop perseverance.
When our daughter was in early elementary, she participated in a science fair. She chose to experiment with limestone erosion rates, which resulted in a slow-moving project that required careful attention to detail. About a month into the experiment, she got distracted while measuring her acid solution, not realizing this until after she’d poured it over the rock.
I watched this all, and my heart broke at her crestfallen face, once she realized what she’d done. At this point, I had three choices: Continue on as if she hadn’t made a mistake, but this would’ve drastically hindered my efforts to train integrity. I could’ve given her less freedom with the pouring in the first place, but this would’ve conveyed the message that I found her incapable. Or, I could make her start all over.
Though it was difficult, I chose the latter, and because of this, she learned mistakes can be frustrating but most can be corrected. This also helped her develop the inner grit she’d need to face future challenges.
Holly Pitman, Children’s Director at St. Paul’s United Methodist in Papillion, Nebraska, reminds us that failure is a part of life. “How someone responds to struggles, setbacks, and failures most likely comes from the mindset that they have been taught,” she says. “If encouraged [correctly], a child can embrace the struggle, learn from setbacks, and in turn can learn to persevere.”
3. Failure helps children learn to deal with self-disappointment.
Our children are guaranteed to fail, often, and each time they do, we have an opportunity to help them learn to process their failure constructively. Most of us admire CEOs, scholars, and nationally known athletes and performing artists, but we may not realize the incredible challenges and setbacks they faced along the way. With each defeat, they had a choice—wallow in negativity and allow it to derail them, or use the failure as a learning opportunity.
Pastor Bitter believes self-disappointment can be an effective growth motivator. “Extraordinary living comes in the discipline to bring excellence in our moment,” he says. “Failure and the disappointment that comes from it can be turned to fuel for living well.” More importantly, failure helps us gain a more Christ-centered view of ourselves. “Failure can teach us that we’re not defined by the ways we disappoint ourselves and others.”
4. Failure can draw our children closer to Christ.
Today’s culture sends a strong message that one must be independent and self-sufficient, but God wants us to be utterly dependent on Him. Were our children to succeed in everything, they may be tempted to think they don’t need God. Failure, when evaluated through a parent-led, biblical lens, show our children where their true strength comes from.
In 2 Corinthians 12:9, God said to Paul, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” Recognizing this enabled Paul to value his weaknesses. In the same verse, he said, “So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.”
By conveying this to our children, we help free them to pursue opportunities without fear.
5. Failure can help our children find their identity in Christ.
In our status-driven culture, it’s easy for our children to begin to believe they are only as valuable as what they accomplish. When they fail at something, this view is challenged. If addressed through honest, loving, and biblical conversation, they can learn to recognize that their identity is based not on what they do or don’t do but rather who they are in Christ. The Bible teaches that we are loved not because of who we are or what we’ve done but rather because of who God is—a God of love. We have talents and gifts because He granted them, so that we could use them for His glory. He raises up one and humbles another, again, all for His glory. Recognizing this truth frees children to live authentically, knowing that, in Christ, they are enough.
Failure is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to paralyze our children. In fact, when handled correctly, failure can be a tool that encourages our children to take healthy risks, persevere in times of struggle, and properly handle self-disappointment. More importantly, when sifted through a lens of grace, failure can help our children draw closer to Christ and find their identity in Him. Through appropriate freedom, patient instruction, and loving communication, we can help our children view failure through a biblical lens. This in turn frees them to become all Christ created them to be.
Jennifer Slattery lives in the midwest with her husband and their teenage daughter. She writes for Christ to the World Ministries, Internet Cafe Devotions, and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud. Her work has appeared in numerous publications and compilation projects.
Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
Publication date: December 29, 2016