ATSP Article January 2019

Friday, 25 January, 2019


Late last year a video went viral which showed a father allegedly pushing his son to save a goal during an Under 8 soccer match in Wales. The father however claimed that his son came towards him as he could not hear what his father was saying and so he simply tried to guide his son back into position but the boy fell over, inadvertently saving the shot (though an opponent following up netted the rebound). For some, it is evidence of a parent doing whatever he can to avoid his child failing; even if he did not push his son to stop the ball he was trying to stop him failing by telling him what to do all the time. There is one simple lesson from this: let them fail!

We need to let our children fail. That means we need to stop doing their homework for them or doing their project for them. We need to stop pandering to their pleading when they forget to take their lunch or sports kit to school and go to the school office to call Mum for her to bring it to school. We need to do that so that they will learn. They will never learn to bring their lunch or sports kit if, every time they forget something, they know that mother will drop everything at work, drive home, then drive to school and drop them off before heading back to work. The child will not die of starvation if he has no lunch that day; he may get hungry but he will not starve and hunger will be a strong reminder for him in future. The child’s sporting career will not be over if he does not have his sports kit; he may miss the next match but that should be sufficient cause for him to remember his kit in future. Let them fail and let them learn.

Furthermore, we need to let our children face the consequences of their ‘failure’. If a child gets into trouble and receives a punishment (rightly or even wrongly) we need to keep out of it and not go running to the school authorities and demand, bribe or plead that the child does not face any punishment. They must deal with that themselves; if they think it is unfair, they must be the one to deal with it. Otherwise, all too quickly they will learn that mum or dad will bail them out by using money, force or beggary and this action will follow them into adult life. Furthermore they need to learn that their failure has consequences not just for themselves but for others; if the child forgets his sports kit and so does not play in the match he will soon learn that his action affected his team’s and his teammate’s chance of winning the match.

There is a very simple reason for letting our children fail. As sure as anything, they, like we, will all fail at times in the future and they sure as anything need to know how to deal with that failure; if we do not allow them to learn it at a young age, they will struggle to cope with it later. We learn more, generally, from our mistakes so let them make mistakes and let them face the consequences of them. A school is a place of learning, the best place for learning, so let them learn while they are at school. Our reputation as a parent is not dependent on their ‘success’ and our reputation is not important, compared to our child’s progress.

Please understand, of course, that we are not saying we deliberately go out to make our child fail. We are not saying we should encourage our child to fail (they will need no encouragement, fear not)! We are not saying we should take no interest nor have no involvement in our child’s life, academics, sport or education. We are certainly not saying we should take no responsibility for our

child’s life or schooling. No – a very emphatic “No!” But we must stand with them in their failure. We can ask them if they have got their kit or lunch but if they have to be reminded all the time then we may need to let them fail so they do learn. We can encourage them to learn from their failure. We can explain to them why it is important to do tasks well and appropriately, to realise their actions have consequences for themselves and others (such as the parent wasting work time and petrol).

Parents tend to think that their job is to keep their child from trouble; it is not. Parents also tend to think that their job is to get their child out of trouble; it is not. Parents tend to think they must do so, or else they have failed as a parent; that is wrong. Let them fail! Let them fail and so let them learn! Don’t be distracted or pushed around. They are at school to learn.

In fact, it comes down to this: if we fail to let them fail, we will fail as parents.