When our child receives an achievement or recognition for their knowledge or performance, our hearts burst with pride and joy due to the success they had achieved. But when things don’t go so smoothly, when they stumble and fall, how do we feel and how do we respond? Just the thought of our children experiencing any type of discomfort, pain, or disappointment can cause parents extreme anxiety. Do we do everything in our power to protect them from struggle or adversity to avoid their and our feelings from getting hurt? By doing so, are we negatively impacting our children's problem-solving, decision-making skills, and emotional resilience by creating insecure and sometimes even helpless young people who are unable to advocate for themselves because they have no idea how to handle obstacles that come their way? Have they ever been given room to figure out how to do so even at an early age? When we feel the constant need to fix things for them and protect them from the inevitable hurt or failure, our efforts say to them, "I don’t trust you to do things on your own.You don’t know how to. I will fix this for you, I will make these decisions for you, and I will protect you from your struggle." And, when that happens, they feel helpless and insecure depending on you with every bit of struggle they encounter because they have no confidence and doubt their ability to help themselves and manage their own life. When something doesn't go as planned, they crumble because they have rarely experienced disappointment or been allowed to fail, unable to develop psychological or mental resilience when failure or overwhelm happens.
One morning, I overheard 2 Learners working hard during Core Skill time, collaborating on a math problem. It was a math and logic puzzle that had no easy answer. This takes a long period of time to analyze and think through-needing serious critical thinking skills. It was 30 minutes after, when I heard them almost about ready to give up when one of them finally had an “aha“ moment and found the solution to the puzzle. They were elated and ready to tackle the next big challenge.
Two important highlights in this story. First, an adult was sitting near them the entire time. Not once did they come to ask the adult for help. They knew they could figure it out: I’d call that independence and self-efficacy. Second, it took multiple tries. Neither learner found what they were looking for right away. In a day and age where instant gratification and quick fixes are the norm, these learners were patient and flexible.
Imagine a future where these learners have had many years of practice at finding their own resources and solving their own problems without the need to run to an adult for a quick fix. Imagine how prepared they will be for the challenges in the real world that they will surely encounter.
How can we set up our children to develop resilience when things don’t go their way?
By being their biggest cheerleader and taking a step back from being their problem solver or rescuer because we want them to know that we trust and believe in them. I’ve failed more often than I’d like to admit. Our Learners have taught me to embrace failure. They have served as a constant reminder to me that it is always better to do than to try or worst-to never do at all, no matter what the outcome.
Here’s to always doing. Here’s to failing!