Kids need to be allowed to fail sometimes

Kids Count

Many things about being a kid today have changed since I was a kid. Parents and teachers no longer employ physical punishments such as hitting with a hand, ruler or object like a belt. So too is gone ear twisting, hair pulling or the other many expressions of physical punishment that were meted out years ago.

When I was a kid, we didn’t sit at the table and participate with adults in conversation the way kids do now and many things were held back from us then as certain topics were taboo. These changes, for the most part are probably positive, one change that is not so positive is the enormous pressure kids are under to be successful at everything every time.

Growing up there were guys that could take apart anything mechanical and fix it and got positive feedback for what were legitimate skills. Others were already working jobs on farms or in stores and were known as hard workers. Some were good athletes which put a spotlight on them and others were good students and were prized for those skills. There were very few or more likely none, who were outstanding at everything they attempted.

I’m not sure that was even an expectation in my younger years. Now, every student or young person must do well at almost everything. There are many well-known examples of people who were failures early on but who later enjoyed outstanding success in their lives.

Michael Jordon wasn’t always the greatest basketball player in the world; Abraham Lincoln lost so many elections that he wasn’t even able to be elected dog catcher in his home town and the musical genius Mozart was not seen as any kind of genius initially. In her book The New Psychology of Success, Professor Carol Dweck explains that “failure is an important part of learning.” Dweck found that there are two possible outcomes from failure, one is that children can become so affected that they become afraid to make further attempts fearing failure or they can realize that failure is part of learning and that these experiences are very valuable. Dweck found that adults around children can heavily affect how they handle success or failure. For example, Dweck warned that parents who frequently tell their kids how smart they are may foster a “fixed mindset and it can backfire.”

Reach the writer at hurlburt@wildblue.net

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