Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Child's Academic Success Depends Upon a Parent's Willingness to Let Them Fail!

A Child's Academic Success Depends Upon a Parent's Willingness to Let Them Fail!

It has been my experience that a child's ability to succeed in the classroom is somehow directly correlated to their comfort or how safe they feel with (what we commonly refer to as) failure. And in my experience I have learned [that] one key element in teaching your child HOW to succeed (yes, I said how to succeed) is first allowing them the freedom to feel comfortable with failure.

First, let's define the word failure. Merriam-Webster defines the word failure (noun) as the 'lack of success.' Having taught leadership courses in the past, I am very adamant about first, understanding that success cannot be attained without a certain degree (or mass quantities) of short-comings, setbacks, delays, hindrances, downfalls, etc., etc., etc. Secondly, success is an illusion. What one person considers a success, another might consider a failure. So, you ask, what's the point? The point is, unless you have a clear vision of what success means within your household, how can you then limit a child or hold a child accountable for failing? You have to ask yourself, what is the true measure of academic success for me?
Is it...
  • Learning?
  • Grades/Grape Point Average?
...because there is a difference between these two objectives/goals. I can hardly elaborate on the second point, as it is of little significance to me. Being a professional tutor and parent (not to mention a person who simply sees life for what it is--just life) I put little weight on grades. To me, the most important aspect of school is learning. 

I shall elaborate, as this is the example I share with many parents, as it relates to their child's success (or failures?) in the classroom.

Many of us might not recall the first time we rode a bike. But, as parents we may have a strong recollection of the day our child first rode (or attempted to ride) a bike. Unless your child was blessed by the gods, so to speak, and born to ride bikes for a living, many of them would have fallen, not once, but multiple times, even with you standing, walking, or running behind them, the first time they attempted to ride. Many of our children cried when they fell the first time. Many of our children were too scared to get back up, but miraculously, they did. Did they do it because they found the will within themselves to keep going? Or, did they do it because they learned the will to succeed within our firm support and committed diligence, all in the name of faith and love in our children? I believe they learned to ride because we didn't measure their falls as failures, but instead, as necessary steps towards achieving the monument of success--and in this particular instance--it was riding their bike!

Now, let's take that same example and apply it to schoolwork or homework. A child tries, attends class, does as their peers do, and sometimes they just 'can't get it.' It has been my experience that instead of running beside them, encouraging them, and pushing them onward, even reminding them of the many times we have fallen before in our own lives, parents seem to get upset. If a child feels discouraged, they can't learn. It takes two things to learn in this world--the right attitude and an attempt.

I speak from example when I say it is hard--very hard--to separate our emotions when attempting to 'help our kids' with homework. I am a professional tutor and yes, I still get help for my children. Why? Because we can't believe they need help. Or, we assume, if we did it, they, somehow (perhaps genetically? magically?) should 'get it' too. Sometimes we get upset, not because they can't 'get it' but more so, because we cannot. It is oftentimes fear--fear of them failing, fear of them not having great opportunities later, etc.--that cause us to react, not out of love, but out of anger. This is what we must address.

My first recommendation--let go of the fear. Failure is the lack of success. Success is an illusion. Success is relative to each individual circumstance. You and your child learned how to ride a bike, ONLY AFTER having fell once or twice before. It is within the fall we appreciate the ride. School is no different. Don't be so scared to let them fail a test, a homework assignment, or a six-weeks grade for that matter, if, in the long run, it helps them truly learn.

...the serving father...

See my column on The Examiner.com!

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