parents

It's OK if your kid's a failure. In fact, it's really quite good.

Kids these days don’t know how to fail and the only ones to blame are us parents.

My almost-four-year old daughter is ballet obsessed.  She walks on her toes and twirls in her tutu.

She instructs me on first, second and third positions.

She talks about popping bubbles with her fingers and pretends to pick up imaginary baskets, pluck out tiny imaginary daisies and fling them elegantly around the room.

She is a pre-school budding ballerina.

Unfortunately, she has my co-ordination and grace; her plies are more like plods. Her glissade more a galumph.

I live in fear that she will be told, much like I was at the tender age of six, to think about “taking up knitting perhaps instead deary.”

Maybe take up knitting instead?

I clearly remember the moment I realised that I actually sucked at ballet. I cast a look in that never-ending wall of mirrors at my wrinkled tights, torn at the knee from falling once-too-often, and knew I would never be like them.

And you know what? I didn’t really give a damn.

Because it was fun (and I was even worse at knitting.)

So I allow my daughter to continue, even though at the end of year concerts I know she will always be the one in the last row.

I allow her to continue, because she loves it.

But in the back of my mind I hold that deeply entrenched parenting fear: What if I am actually harming her? What if it damages her self esteem not being the best?

And I wonder – should we be encouraging our kids to do something even though we know they will fail?

It’s a tricky issue that has cropped up on a recent parenting thread on Reddit, with a question from a parent (I’m assuming is his father) and who goes by the name of Astronaut Freddy.

Astronaut Freddy asks whether he should allow his daughter to compete in a singing talent contest, when she clearly, in his view, talentless when it comes to holding a tune.

Overwhelmingly,  Reddit readers replied – yes, but many suggested he might look into getting his daughter some training.

The mere fact that poor old Astronaut Freddy is grappling with these issues makes me want to sigh – loudly and deeply.

Like all parents he obviously just want to do the best by his daughter, but to be forced to take to social media for advice on whether to let a ten-year old sing at a talent contest shows us just how fearful we are of our children failing.

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Are we breeding a germination of Verucas?

What is Astronaut Freddy scared of?

That his budding little Britany Spears (lets face it she’s talentless too) will get laughed off stage? That she will be bullied or that she will realise her own limitations?

In our reward-all and praise-all parenting culture our children don’t have much of a chance of failing.

We give medals for showing up and play scoreless games of junior footy. Our children’s walls are papered in certificates, some so meaningless they simply shrug when we ask them what they are for; “Dunno everyone got one.”

Related content“Of course your children are Gifted And Talented. Mine aren’t, and it’s fine by me.”

Even our education system encourages ‘giving things a go’ in preference to accuracy. If a child attempts to spell a word or write a letter that seems to be good enough. We wouldn’t want to discourage them.

But what is so discouraging in getting something wrong? In coming second or (gasp) even third?

Shouldn’t we learn that not everyone qualifies, that not everyone is going to be number one?

It seems as parents we face an unshakable fear of our children suffering from a “lack of self esteem.”

Former Chief Executive of Curriculum Corporation and Education Bruce Wilson says we have turned away from the notion of failure:

“If children are to be given the chance to gain the most powerful possible learning, we must be able to expose them to the risk of failure, help them understand failure and success, and support them in trying again at something which has so far defeated them,” he explains.

As a parent it’s damn hard to accept, at times, that your kid simply isn’t the top of the class.

You ache for life to be easy for them, for them to feel that warm glow of success. It’s against every instinct to let your child be disappointed.

You watch them chase that goal, or dance on that stage with your stomach in knots.

We need to let them be crap occasionally and show them that there is nothing wrong with that.

We need to teach our kids that it’s OK to fail.

Do you think it is acceptable to allow our kids to fail? 

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