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Little failures help set them up for the real world

You don’t have to rescue them

By Michelle Hoffart
West Dakota Parent & Family Resource Center in Dickinson.

My name is Michelle and I am the administrative assistant for West Dakota Parent & Family Resource Center in Dickinson.

When asked to put together this article, the first thing I felt was PANIC. I told Stacy that I’m not qualified to do an article. She said, “Michelle, you raised two kids who are well on their own and finding success in the world. You ARE qualified, you went through the ups and downs of parenthood…now write!!” I thought to myself ‘OK, I guess I am “qualified.”’

Tim and I raised two children who are on their own experiencing what the real world looks like.

There are so many topics of parenting that I could write about, but I would like to focus on “letting them fail.” As a parent, this was one of the hardest principals to put into action.

As I reminisce of the early childhood years, I can remember many times not coming to their rescue. I’ll give you some examples: time of forgotten baseball mitt (driving back home 25 miles one way, was not an option), choosing the two sizes too small shoes for the day (this particular day was “The day on the Farm”), missing the circus because of a bad choice made at home (I had just enough energy to watch her brother and my two nieces)—the list could go on and on and on.

Letting our kids fail may not seem what good parents do, but it is one of the best things we did as parents. According to Dr. Stephanie O’Leary, a clinical psychologist specializing in neuropsychology and author of “Parenting in the Real World: The Rules Have Changed,” failure is good for kids on several levels. First, experiencing failure helps your child learn to cope, a skill that’s certainly needed in the real world. It also provides him or her with the life experience needed to relate to peers in a genuine way. Being challenged also instills the need for hard work and sustained efforts. Over time, children who have experienced defeat will build resilience and be more willing to attempt difficult tasks and activities because they are not afraid to fail. And, she says, rescuing your child sends the message that you don’t trust him or her. “Your willingness to see your child struggle communicates that you believe they are capable and that they can handle any outcome, even a negative one,” she says.

After forgetting the baseball mitt, our son got into the habit of organizing the night before. Our daughter soon learned the concept of good choices = good consequences, bad choices = bad consequences.

As adults, they are still on their journey of making important decisions and thinking of how those decisions will affect their life in the long run.

I have to let you in on a little secret—we didn’t know that letting our kids fail through making little mistakes at home would help them with their big decisions after leaving home. Their father and I went through parent education classes, “The Incredible Years” and “Love and Logic for Early Childhood.” They taught us the same exact ideas as Dr. Stephanie O’Leary talks about. We would like to thank Dickinson Public Schools and our community for supporting the Parent Center. Learning new ideas on how to parent made PARENTING FUN for us. We thank you and our kids thank you!