Letting Children Fail

Jessica Lahey, writing for The Atlantic:

"These are the parents who worry me the most — parents who won't let their child learn. You see, teachers don't just teach reading, writing, and arithmetic. We teach responsibility, organization, manners, restraint, and foresight. These skills may not get assessed on standardized testing, but as children plot their journey into adulthood, they are, by far, the most important life skills I teach.

Excellent piece, and I recommend reading the whole thing.

This is something I think about often, because I want to avoid being "that" parent. The one who coddles their children, never allowing them to learn from their mistakes and thus creating a sense of entitlement that will set the child up for inevitable failure in adulthood.

It's an easy pattern to slip into, I know. Even now, I sometimes find myself making excuses for Brendon when he's acting bratty. "Oh he's just a baby, he doesn't understand what he's doing." And maybe that's true to a certain extent, but my role is to be a father, not a buddy.

When I see that he's about to hurt himself in some way, my first instinct is to reach out and prevent that thing from happening, but I have to remind myself that sometimes I need to hold back and let the lesson be taught. (Obviously I still step in if the damage is going to be severe.)

At some point he must learn what is right and wrong, and I'm trying to instill these values in him early on so we can avoid the whole "damage control" thing years from now, when it will be too late to reverse any coddling we've done. Is there a better way? I don't know, there was no manual handed to me when I became a dad.

One thing I do know though: it doesn't feel good to tell him no, but it must be done.