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How do you do your children the favor of letting them fail?

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Or to put it a different way: how do you make sure they are adequately challenged enough to let them be appropriately pushed in order to allow growth? This question has been on my mind since I read the quote posted by Kathleen in VA about building self-esteem taken from the book "The Last Lecture"-here's the link to the post and the quote:




In the book, he talks about how this coach really pushed them beyond what they thought they could do (again, appropriately), and how great it felt to accomplish bigger things than they thought they could! It really got me thinking because I do think that character is partly built by what we have to find in ourselves when faced with challenges and pushing ourselves a little harder than we thought we could and even failures.


As homeschoolers that are pretty much homebodies, my dc don't have those opportunities for facing things just a little beyond them so they can build perseverance and self-esteem and those types of things-they have a really soft life (not a bad thing, I realize, especially since they're very young yet-8 and 5.) We mainly enjoy being home as a family unit, plus we're having to cut out many outside activities due to finances, so most of this type of thing will have to come from home for us rather than outside sources like Scouts, etc.


I have noticed, interestingly, that my dc will work MUCH harder for others than for me. So it may be the type of thing that you do NEED an outside mentor or two for, to get best results? I think we've all had teachers and coaches like this. It's hard as a homeschool mom to wear yet ANOTHER hat and try to challenge our children in helpful ways (not just schoolwork.) I do feel like when they're at an activity and the authority in charge sets out a certain task for them to do, I'm thinking that they can't possibly do it, yet they always come through. So I think at home I'm probably consistently setting bars way too low! And fear of failure is a huge part of who I am- probably because I never had to push myself-to the point of not wanting to try anything, so I don't want to pass this on to my kids, and I think I already am.


So I'm wondering what others are doing in their homes to foster failure!

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For our schooling, I give grades. Ds was getting bad grades in spelling for truly a lack of effort. He has some dyslexia symptoms so we already give leeway in that subject. We discussed it many times and finally I started allowing him to fail. A few "F's" on the paper were a real wake up call for him.


We too are pretty secluded. We have no car during the day and I've noticed that we have been too sedentary this summer. We were previously participating in http://www.presidentschallenge.org/ and this has been great to help ds become a little competitive with himself. I participate as well and he likes to see who has more points.


Don't know if that truly answers your question, but those are the things that came to my mind.

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With my boys, I give them things and then either encourage (or threaten :D) them until they accomplish it OR if I can't sit on my hands, I walk away. This includes school, play, sports, or chores. We don't do many outside things either other than church and our coop.


For example:


My boys each have their own set of tools that they can use on their own, except for the saw :eek:. If they want to build something they can. If they hammer their thumb, I am there to either take them to the emergency room or give them ice and a hug.


My oldest ds9 has been taught safely how to use a pocket knife and a BB gun. He can go in the field and use his BB gun alone if he wants. Same with the pocket knife. (recently he did cut himself needing stitches).


Please understand my ds9, he is NOT your athletic outdoors type. He would much rather read. He was always afraid of getting hurt. The two activities mentioned above helped him to see that he can have fun and if he gets hurt it is OK life goes on. He was not forced into these activities (ok maybe a little) but did show interest - he was just afraid.


I think a lot of it is letting go of your own fear or need to have them do everything "right". Life is all about making mistakes and learning from them.

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I have noticed, interestingly, that my dc will work MUCH harder for others than for me. So it may be the type of thing that you do NEED an outside mentor or two for, to get best results?


Are you talking children or teens? Or pre-teens? I don't think children need failure to thrive, other than the natural failure they can get around the house, dropping the cookie plate, getting burned on the oven. Those come naturally and don't need to be planned! :lol:


For pre-teens and teens, I do believe it has to come from an outsider. You could ruin your relationship with your kids if you set them up to fail. Well, not if they fail for obvious lack of effort though. I think dads could do it. They don't have the same kind of relationship with their offsprings as mothers do.


In our case, it's sports. Competitive sports, done - obviously- outside the home. But there's also some long distance classes that will get the same results.

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I agree with Cleo. For us it was football and basketball. It gave ds a chance to learn how to lose gracefully, and yet not have the humiliation of being the only one who lost. They won as a team and lost as a team.


It was a good chance for me to see what was "normal" little boy behavior. I was able to relax a bit when I saw that my kid wasn't the only one who got teary when they would lose.

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You could ruin your relationship with your kids if you set them up to fail.


I had problems coming up with the above sentence. It's not quite I wanted to say but I couldn't articulate it any better. Then it dawned on me!


You're not setting them up to fail, that would be bad mothering, bad coaching, etc... But what needs to be done is to push them higher than they ever thought they could reach. That kind of pushing needs to be ruthless - within limits of course - and that ruthlessness can be damaging to your motherly relationship. But it's something older kids do need to experience to grow to their potential and become the best they can be.


I do not believe one can wear the motherly hat and the coach hat at the same time. Mother/teacher yes, it's a natural combination. But mother/coach? That would be hard. Even dad/coach is a tightrope. I'm thinking of the Williams sisters, the tennis players, who will no longer speak to their dad/coach. Yet they did become great tennis players.

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what you meant! And it actually pinpoints the crux of my whole dilemma, I guess. I don't feel comfortable in that role, it doesn't fit, yet I know my children need that from somewhere.


And "allowing them up to fail" was probably bad wording on my part too- not that they would actually fail, I meant more like providing appropriate very high goals and the attendant resources/skills to meet them, and then insisting that they do. I guess it is a "coaching" role-whether it be sports or an online class or scouting or whatever-and it really seems to conflict with "mothering" for me! Apparently my intuition was right: this is something that would be best outsourced to trusted mentors.

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Not so much allowing to fail but encouraging to try. My son is very reluctant to try new things, I wish I had pushed a little harder for him to do new things. Not things that I agreed he wouldn't like, but things I knew he would have enjoyed. He didn't want to do debate, but I felt it was important, and I thought he would enjoy it. So, I told him he had to do it for one year. Now he loves it. Since it is competition, he doesn't always win. But his team is very encouraging and focuses on improving. I think it gives him I chance to experience losing and going back to try harder.

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