Elementary Counseling

Copenhagen Central School

Lately, I've had to ask myself some hard questions. Am I doing this parenting thing "right"? Can I do better? The fourth time my son forgot his instrument for band and I went back for it, I thought, nope. Something is missing. I happened to be on Amazon looking for a great pair of boots when a suggested book title popped up, "The Gift of Failure: How Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed" by Jessica Lahey. My first reaction was to have a minor panic attack, rapidly beating heart, shallow breaths...you know the drill. The word failure has that power. As parents, we want our children to be successful and we often go out of our way to make sure they avoid failure. But, is it ok, maybe even beneficial, to let our kids make mistakes or even fail?

Many of our elementary teachers have embraced the concept of growth mindset. A growth mindset is the belief that intelligence can be developed; challenges are best met with an open mind; mistakes are to be learned from; when things are tough, keep going; and effort leads to mastery.

When our children struggle with a concept or an assignment, it can be frustrating at the least and heartbreaking at the most. It is tough as a parent to watch a child struggle, to see the tears and hear the frustration in their words. At times, it seems easier to let our kids off the hook, tell them the assignment is pointless and send them on their way or maybe help them by doing some of the work for them. However, these are the moments when our children have the most potential for growth. Allowing our kids to experience natural consequences, both positive and negative, builds within them an understanding of their own power to shape their experiences. If we, as parents, help our kids connect the dots between effort and the outcome, we are doing a good job.

Maybe fail isn't the right word. Letting our kids struggle and stumble is good for their development into confident, independent, happy adults. Not saying this is an easy thing to do but it is essential for their growth and development. The next time that kid forgets his instrument, he's going to have to face the music.

Christina Petersen, School Counselor