I Purposely Let My Son Fail

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“Mommy, I don’t know what I’m supposed to do,” my son said to me.

“I know you don’t, but you signed up for this tournament and I expect that you will follow through,” I replied.

There, I had an important decision: save him from his own decisions and behavior or let him suffer the natural consequences. I chose the latter.

My son asked to be part of a local Tae Kwon Do tournament. He wasn’t prepared. He told me he didn’t want to go and I replied that he was going to follow through on his commitment.

I texted my husband. I filled him in that our son was woefully unprepared and it was obvious from warm-ups that he was going to fail … miserably. My husband nervously responded that perhaps we should just leave.

Not. An. Option. Jack asked to be part of this event. He chose to not practice. He chose not to prepare. Yes, he’s only nine. But lessons learned early stick and this was going to be one hard lesson.

I watched him struggle through forms. Out of three kids, he came in third.

I watched him struggle with breaking the boards. Out of two kids, he came in second.

At first, I made it about me and what other moms would think. Who is that kid who doesn’t know what he is doing? Why won’t that mom put him out of his misery and take him home? Does that mom care about him, he isn’t even prepared?

But, at that moment, something changed.

It wasn’t about me. It was about him. He was choosing to not pay attention in class. He was choosing not to practice at home. He was choosing to sign up for tae kwon do tournaments. Nine years old isn’t too soon to learn three important lessons:

1. If you are not prepared, you have a greater chance of failing

This goes for anything in life. Sports tournaments, tests, meetings, presentations. One of the best ways to experience success is to prepare. If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

2. Uncomfortable feelings happen, work through them

Stress, nervousness, discomfort, fear, anxiety. We experience all of these uncomfortable feelings every day. One of the best ways to build resilient children is to prepare them for dealing with the uncomfortable feelings they will experience when facing challenges.

3. Responsibility for your own actions

I need my son (on some level) to think about the part he played in his failure and how he can change that next time. Learning from, and accepting responsibility for, failures will help him remember this experience and better prepare next time.

Failure is not fun and it’s not something I’m going to intentionally set my children up for. However, failure is an important part of life and the more I prepare my children for facing and successfully overcoming failure, the better prepared they will be to face the more complex obstacles as they grow.

Have you allowed your child to learn from failure? What is your experience?

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Kristen is a wife, mother and full-time special education teacher. Born in Connecticut, she has lived in Washington, DC, North Carolina and now happily calls Columbia home. Her children, the tortoise and the hare, were adopted from South Korea and are now 7 and 4. This “Dawson’s Creek” enthusiast was convinced if she scored a spot as an extra on the show, a famous actor would fall in love with her and whisk her away to pursue a life of parties and Prada. She scored the spot, but not the actor. With a chronic case of Wanderlust, she can be found day-tripping throughout the Carolinas and planning excursions to visit family across the US. She could be a contestant on "World's Worst Cook" as she has ruined instant pudding not once...but twice.

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