The Importance of Letting Your Kids Fail


I know – the title already sounds harsh, and you may be tempted to not ready any further. Please do.

I spend a lot of time with college students. I live with 35 of them. I teach college classes.

And one thing I have learned is that many of them were not given the opportunity to fail when they were younger (with relatively low stakes). Then they get to college, fail for the first time without someone swooping in to fix the situation, and are devastated. They do not know how to rebound.

The breakdown that often happens after this incident does not have to happen. This can actually be prevented years ahead as a child. 

Failure is a part of life. 

It is impossible to get through life without failing sometime.  

Failure is not the end of the world.

Failing can be productive.

Failure can help you grow.

So how can you help your student before they get to college and have her or his first failure and then do not know how to cope? Let them fail as kid. 

Give them the room to grow up. One crazy thing I have noticed as a college instructor is how many students fail out of college the first year because they cannot get up on their own to make it to their 8 a.m. classes. While your child is still in high school, allow her or him to set their alarm clock and be responsible for getting themselves up and ready for the day on time.

Teach them to advocate and ask questions for themselves. When they get to college, laws prevent you from gaining access to their student records without your students signing a waiver. College professors cannot talk to you about your college student without your student there giving permission. 

Give them the chance to prepare and follow through on plans. You can talk through the plans with them and try to give advice, but let them orchestrate details without micromanaging. Because if you do not, students will get to college or adulthood and be overwhelmed with decision-making because they have not been given the chance to do so on their own. You can start with little things like letting them order at a restaurant or calling to make appointments as a teen. This is something I have seen college students really struggle with as well.

Allow them to problem solve. They can figure out things on their own. (I am not talking about when safety is an issue.) If you are one of those parents on the phone giving answers every time your college students call (I hear these calls daily), you are doing your child a disservice. You can offer your advice, but only do it after you have given the young adult a chance to think through and come up with a solution first. 

Because if this is not mastered during the emerging adult years, like college, or by the time the child leaves your house, they will become that really annoying employee who has his or her parent call the boss for him or her. Yes, this is actually happening.

And that is an entirely different article. 

What have you seen young adults struggle with once they leave home?

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Tabitha Epperson
Born and raised in Mississippi but making Columbia her second home since 2008, Tabitha is a sociologist, doula, college instructor, and sorority house mom. She knows more details about pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding than most people care to talk about and loves her three chihuahuas (Toto, Gumbo, and Shrimp). She is currently working on her dissertation for her Ph.D. and dreams about the day when she will be finished. Tabitha crafts but not that great, and if she used Pinterest more, she could probably be on a Pinterest fails page somewhere. She’s an avid reader but mostly reads things related  to her dissertation these days. As a house mom, she never knows how her day will go when she wakes up, but she mentors and guides over 200 women on a daily basis and loves accompanying them on the path to full adulthood. She volunteers often and tries to make the world a better place. 


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