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How far you let(?) your child fail?


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I really hope that I am not opening a can of worms here.  :unsure:

 

As a mom, especially a homeschooling mom, I have to admit that I go out on a limb to protect my children from any possible harm or mistakes. Yet, I understand there are many, many scary things that I don't have control over so all I can do is just to grieve with my child when he or she fails. And I know I have to let my child fail even though you know it will happen sooner or later and you have poser to prevent it. Or so I was told. 

 

My question. How far?

 

Of course I don't want to raise a child who thinks he is so invincible and later on -maybe in his 30's :ohmy: - realizes that his mom has been his safety net all through his life. It was much easier when kids were young. Let them taste play dough so they can learn when mom says don't eat something, there is a very good reason. When your children are in high school and making decisions that will effect them for a while, things get little bit tricky. Would you let him click that send button when you know his email to his teacher might not received in very positive way? Would you let him submit that lousy essay - to you anyway- to the college he wanted to go?

 

Because we are homeschooling and I can (hypothetically) supervise all he does, things can get little bit blurry. How do you do it? Ultimate wisdom?

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I take each situation as it comes.

 

Last week, I got a note from my son's advisor wondering why he hadn't logged in to his new online class.  He was 7 assignments behind.  I intervened, because the lack of me intervening would have had longer consequences than if I had.  I called him, drove an hour and a half, picked him up from the district basketball tournament, drove an hour and a half home, and stayed in the kitchen as he pulled out his laptop, unwrapped (!!!) his book, and set to work.  I didn't yell, didn't threaten, didn't even say a word about the situation past the phone call, but made sure he knew the seriousness of this (and if driving that far didn't impress it on him, the coach kicking him off the team did) and empathised with his predicament.  I helped when he needed help. 

 

For the rest, I can encourage the child to take his essays to a person he's comfortable with to read them over (he knows parents of his friends will gladly help), I don't micro-manage emails.  I give the rope, talk to him about what he's doing, encourage him to look at other options, and don't intervene unless I really feel like I have to.  A poorly worded email is nothing in a bigger relationship and back and forth with the teacher.  A lousy essay can hurt his chances, but if my child doesn't get in because of a lousy essay I'm not sure the work at the school would be appropriate for him, either.

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In those situations (the email to the teacher and the essay) I would probably share my opinion and what my life experience would tell me the result of the action would be and encourage him to rethink his positions. Then I would let him do it.  I don't think it is my job to sit idly by without advising my teens but it is advisement in those instances. No one is going to get physically hurt if he has a falling out with a teacher or doesn't get into a college.  I'd let him make those choices with as much information as I could give him.  Then let the chips fall where they fall.

 

I do take each situation as it comes.  Surely I would step in and administer consequences if the situation called for it.  But allowing them to think these things through and trouble shoot situations is good whenever possible (in my opinion).

 

What I do think is important is not to follow up with "I told you so" when they go against your advice and you were right.  They know it.  You don't need to say it.

Edited by teachermom2834
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Depends on the child and the circumstances.  My mom definitely overprotected me all through my school years.  I appreciate that she cares deeply about me and loves me and her efforts came from that, but it made it hard to learn how to function independently as an adult.  Kids need love and support but they also need a chance to learn resilience and that sometimes things don't go as planned and it is up to them to pull things out of the fire, not look to others to save them.

 

At the same time, I have two kids that have learning challenges and I know without some scaffolding/support, they would not only not have been able to learn and progress, there is every chance in the world they would have fallen into deep, dangerous depression (because it DID happen when they were both still in school being asked things they were not yet capable of doing).

 

With your last two examples, I think that I would (if we had a relationship where my child was amenable to suggestions) ask if they wanted my input on anything.  Especially if losing a scholarship or something means no college then I would be more proactive than otherwise, also.  But if they don't want my input I let them do what they feel they need to do (not talking about things like drug use obviously).

 

I run a writing class with a friend of mine.  We use IEW SWI and it is High Schoolers who are behind in writing skills but not severely so.  I had set up the lessons so that the kids function relatively independently.  We are supposed to be just the facilitators.  We give feedback but a lot of this is sort of discovery approach.  My dyslexic daughter is in this class so I know that she needs some support, some scaffolding.  However, I also know that writing is a creative process, even with fact based writing, and to learn this well takes given the person time to explore and try out different ways of doing things.  IEW provides a good framework for them to work within.  They can't function with nebulous, too open ended assingments.  They just aren't there yet.  But they do need, IMHO, a chance to "fail" in their writing, learn that that is not a bad thing, then learn how to deal with that "failure" and work to find another way to approach it.

 

 The other mom cannot do that.  She hovers.  She rereads.  She constantly corrects, without allowing the students to try out different ways of wording things, as if there really is only one way.  She is a lovely person but she feels anxiety when she thinks her child and others are not going to have great success in what they do right from the start.  She believes she is helping but I think she is harming.  They aren't going through the process of writing something that didn't come out the way they wanted then getting a chance to go back and think about it, revise it, find other ways to approach it, etc.  In other words, her fear that they will fail prevents them from learning how to handle failure and how to turn that failure around.

Edited by OneStepAtATime
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I actually had to allow my Ds to fail his math class. I did everything I could to help him, I gave him gentle reminders, offered to help him with organization and he would still wait until the absolute last minute to do a week's worth of assignments and turn them in. I stopped reminding him and just let the chips fall where they may. He had to retake the class and passed with a B, I think he should've been able to pull an A. This year he took a pre calculus class, he didn't make those same mistakes.

Edited by mama25angels
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I see it as a learning process.

The very first email my kids sent to a professor, I read over the draft, may have made a suggestion or two. Any subsequent emails, I offered to be there for input if they felt it needed. For some trickier situations, they actually asked my opinion before sending, but normally they do it on their own.

College essays - I offer to proof read and edit, but they own the process and can decline my help. I am not micromanaging.

Both my kids began to be fiercely independent as soon as they started taking DE classes and absolutely insisted doing it all alone. I let them. In the beginning, I might remind about assignments. They are in charge. If I were micromanaging the process, some mistakes would not have happened, but they also would not have learned how to "do college". And they would resent me for not trusting them to learn this.

 

We have had no catastrophic events, so I don't know what I would have done if my kids would have been on the verge of failing a class. Generally, I see the time at home as preparation for later independence, but with the safety net of parents as needed and wanted. We are still safety net for 3rd year college DD who is extremely successful academically - she asks out input and opinion about decisions, or may want to discuss physics or her ideas for an essay. That is good. the kids should know we have their back, even in adulthood. It does not mean we do for htem what they can and should do for themselves.

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If you've been providing a full safety net, then it isn't fair to anyone to back off completely all at once. You start backing off gradually, getting down to reminders or pointing out things. Eventually, you stop that and let the chips fall (unless you have a kid with executive functioning issues where they will always need something. If that is the case, while you back off, you teach how to use planning aids, alarms, lists, etc. to take your place -- but they have to be the one who inputs the assignments & sets the alarms.).

 

The timeline is different for each kid. As far as ultimate failure, I agree with the above people. I have a younger brother who always had someone helping him & saving him. He is a great guy, but as an adult, he's had to learn hard lessons (and is still, in some ways, looking for someone to save him from his bad decisions). He has expressed whimsy and longing for those easy days of childhood on several occasions. I think it would have been a lot better for him if we'd allowed him to fail in his classes in high school so he didn't fail out of his first attempt at college. It would have been better had we not rescue him from bad financial decisions before he had to file for bankruptcy. . . . And, on & on.

 

So, do you let them be burned a little bit in the fire now to keep them from dying in the fire later? (Reference to Calico Bush) Yes. Even if you have to take them to the hospital in the short term.

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I think the backing off process happens over time.  You can't go from all over protective, hands on, keeping an eye on everything to letting completely go.  Let them take on more and more of it and with things they should have control over say "it is yours now, you own it and I am not looking over your shoulder".

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Any permanent or physical harm/safety issues, etc., I do step in on, like others said, it really depends on the situation.  

 

Other things like crappy essays and stuff I KNOW they can do better on, I may talk to them about their best and maybe just talk about those particular consequences.  If they move forward anyway, they get the consequence that comes.  

 

 

Edited by candmforever
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I'm much more prone to administer additional consequences, or increase oversight if it's an outside course which has a transcript.  Consequences for home-brewed courses are natural -- you aren't done with it until it's done (unless I've over-scheduled something -- in which case I reevaluate assignments).  This is true of both of my oldest two children.

 

I'm a bit more hardline right now towards the oldest (who is a junior), who is prepping for the SAT test.  He had convinced himself that he just wasn't a great test taker (he is), and studying/prepping wouldn't help. Of course, three practice tests in, he now realizes how wrong he was.  He's also trying for a huge competitive scholarship for his #1 choice school.  I've been having him read the bios of last year's seniors who received it, and had him print out the degree requirements and highlight the courses he could test out of -- just to keep those things as a motivator.  So far, so good.

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Before intervening, I typically try to ask myself the following: Will this particular thing my child is involved in, doing, or not doing negatively affect him/her 10 years from now?

 

If the answer to that question is "yes" or "probably," I intervene. If the answer is "no" or "unlikely," I try (try, try, try) to step back.

 

Failing high school will (more than likely) negatively affect my child in years to come and I know many teenagers who simply do not yet understand the value of an education. With that said, if it's within my capacity to intervene in academics, I will do so. My take on this is notably and admittedly colored, as I badly wish my parents had intervened when I was a teenager.

 

 

 

 

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After a really horrible experience with someone forwarding a private email from one ds to a volunteer coordinator, dc and I ALL learned our lessons about emails. So, yes, I would talk to him about any emails while he's still living there with you. He needs to know how his words COULD be perceived in emails. It might save him a world of grief somewhere down the road.

 

The essay, I would also talk to him about, explaining the bigger picture and offering suggestions, explaining the reasoning behind each one.

 

My kids and I usually talked about most everything. I don't think that handicapped them. If anything, it helped them to deal with situations that came up when they moved to start college. And in life in general. And we continue to discuss things whenever they want to talk about something. Mostly I just listen to them talk, offering comments every now and then. It seems to help them process stuff and come up with their own plans of action. I consider that a good thing.

 

They don't always call me for things either. Sometimes they talk to each other (also a good thing), or to friends and professors they've come to know (another good thing). Their circles are ever widening. :)

 

And I sometimes even suggest they ask this or that person about a thing because that person might be able to help them more than either dh or I could.

 

I guess I never looked at it as a 'let them fail' thing. Or even a 'consequences' thing. To me, it was always more of a 'we all help each other' kind of thing - financially, emotionally, physically, spiritually, etc. And when they're young, it leans more towards the parents doing the most of the helping. But I can see down the road, as dh and I age, that the tables will slowly turn, I suppose.

 

All to say that, yes, I think you should help your ds when he needs it. :)

We are also in the help each other vein.

 

I'm infamous for writing emails that I intend to be businesslike and concise but come off as curt. I often have one of my teens read emails before I hit send.

 

Dh writes for publication about once a month. There is a constant cycle of review and comment from me and our older sons.

 

With college applications I have searched websites for info on requirements or degree offerings. I helped one son with data entry on apps because the website kept timing out and dumping his work.

 

When I have book club my dh and kids often bake or do set up.

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Kid failed a $2500 grant proposal for his non profit a few years ago, in front of a room full of major donors. It was painful. I was so mad at him. He hasn't quite gotten that cocky since, but it was enough cash it could have really launched him. It was too bad. His non profit, his grant proposal. I can't in good conscience do it for him.

 

I feel that way about college essays, most all testing, and his online classes. He needs to succeed because he wants it, not because I hold his hand along the way.

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