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Why allowing children to fail is a good thing.

It’s a phrase we’ve heard or said more than once  “Kids today…” they say, referring to  20 somethings who complain or threaten to quit soon after starting something because either the work isn’t quite what they expected, or  isn’t what they want to be doing at this age and stage.

Most of us never questioned working our fingers to the bone because we believed work ethic would be proof of competence and help you move up in the world. In this technology age, 20 something year old overnight millionaires are created every so often, children are growing up in a culture where decades of hard work  and repeated failure is frowned upon.

What happened to hard work? Where did resilience go? Grit? Perseverance? Millennials will happily walk out of any job that doesn’t meet their standards. The way to deal with setbacks has become to go somewhere else.

Parents believe that they shouldn’t let their children fail, creating young adults who are not prepared to cope with any challenges thrown at them .



Kaplan Thaler,  co-founder of  Kaplan Thaler Group told a hilarious story of trying to teach her daughter Emily, then 5, how to ride a bicycle. Two years later, Emily still didn’t know how to ride. “Of course,” Thaler says with a laugh. “God forbid I would let her actually fall.”

It wasn’t until an elderly man approached her one day in the park and told Kaplan Thaler to put her hands in her pockets while he pushed Emily on the bike. The man let her go, and she fell. After several more falls, she started riding.

“She is a well-rounded young lady today and I like to think I had a hand in her success mostly because of keeping my hands in my pocket,” she said.

Parenting the “everyone gets a trophy” way may be setting up our kids for failure in the future.

Our success stories are no longer about how Abraham Lincoln failed in business and lost the elections 8 times before finally winning, but about socialites quitting school and getting plastic surgery and earning millions of dollars doing nothing but partying. Sweat equity has been thrown out in exchange for instant expectations and results.

When we grew up, there was an expectation that you had to work hard to achieve success. How do you raise a child who knows the value of hard work and puts in the hours to become a success while being able to deal with the inevitable challenges?

The basics;

  • Make them make their beds

The number one lesson you learn in military training is how to make your bed. If you start off your day doing something you know how to do perfectly, no matter how crappy your day was, when you get home, you have evidence of something you did right.

  • Don’t pack for them

Whether for a sleep over or camping trip, let your children figure out what they need for themselves. If they forget their flashlight, you can bet the memory of walking around in the dark will make them remember it next time.

  • Encourage them to solve their own problems, especially the small ones

Kids get easily overwhelmed by problems. Help you children break down big problems into smaller ones so they can easily solve them . For example, if they have a science project they “can’t” do without your help, help them figure out the parts that they can do. Make a list if necessary outlining the steps necessary to solve the problem.

  • Praise the effort, not the result

The testing culture puts emphasis on grades. Grades are determined by the effort put into the activity and this effort is what’s most important. Praise studying and reading and encourage your child to do more of it and you will eventually see a difference in their grades.

Everyone can learn

Some children are naturally more resilient than others. Grit is a learn-able trait that can be developed and is best done at a young age. It is the great equalizer, its the one factor that determines the last man standing and those are the successful people.

Do your kids have grit? Have they overcome a challenge you didn’t expect them to?

First published at


Leah was born and raised in Kenya. She divides her time between article writing, blogging and creating original African pieces. She provides her writing services independently and can be found odesk. When she isn’t hunched over a computer, she’s out being inspired by nature.
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