For the Whole of Their Life.

Is It Okay To Let Our Children Fail?

By Ellie Rolfe

It can be so tempting to be the ‘superman’ or ‘wonder woman’ in our children’s lives. The one who is always there to save them or pick up after them. For example, have you found yourself turning the car around to grab a school book or run home to pick up that hat that they left behind? Or maybe you have written a note explaining why they haven’t been able to get something done, even though we know that if they had managed their time effectively it would have been done with plenty of time to spare? When we do this, what is the result for our children? I’m sure if you’re anything like me, that this was done to protect our kids. However, the question becomes ‘does protecting our children from the natural consequences that are likely to occur, really pay off for them in the long run?

What do the experts say?

Kids who experience failure can learn that it’s OK to take risks. They can also learn how to tolerate frustration. These are traits that can serve them well as adults. When kids experience something like a poor grade, there’s a way to move forward and improve the next time.

Elizabeth Harstad, Developmental Behavioural Paediatrician


Failing is another stepping stone in the learning process. We can teach kids to embrace their mistakes as a way of improving themselves. Practicing this reflective process of seeing where they went wrong, making changes and then trying again increases learning. It also builds resilience and perseverance.”

Brendan Hodnett, Special Education Teacher

Kids can gain so many lessons from failure. When we don’t swoop in to save them, they’re forced to learn how to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. It pushes kids to learn to try new strategies. Parents can use failures as opportunities to teach those lessons.”

Donna Volpitta, Centre for Resilient Leadership

There are three very important questions to ask your children when things don’t go their way in order to better prepare them for the world outside of school. As James Lehman outlines, the best questions to ask them after they experience failure are:

  1. 'What part did they play in this?' - Unfortunately, we can't control everything that happens in life, and kids who can understand that the only thing they can control is themselves, sets them up well for the future.
  2. 'What are they going to do differently next time?' - This should allow your child to strategise how they might respond to achieve a more positive outcome.
  3. 'What did they learn from this?' - This question again, gets them thinking about the situation as a learning opportunity which should reframe the discussion.

Please be encouraged that there are long term benefits from letting our kids handle the small obstacles that they encounter in everyday life and at school. Let’s continue to partner in supporting our kids by letting them experience these difficult moments in the midst of our love and support.

Phil Gallagher

Head of Middle School

The Life

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