As I watched my middle school students walk into the classroom today, I thought of the diversity of the group. Some of my students walked through my classroom doors with a parent-packed lunch. Others set their own alarms and caught the bus alone.
The thing is, these details have little correlation with their ability to fail. It’s not a packed lunch or extra responsibility that will allow our students to thrive; it’s a mindset we are responsible for teaching them.
We must stop protecting them from failure.
Our instinct is to protect—protect our children from being upset. I want to see them happy, just like you, but sometimes, long-term happiness comes from being upset at the moment.
Mom or dad, you and I must stop protecting them from failure at home and in the classroom. We must resist protecting them from sadness or disappointment. To protect their future, we must stop protecting their “now”. We must stop protecting them from uncomfortable and necessary growth.
Mom or dad, if you want your child to learn from their mistakes—let them take the bad grade. Don’t ask for a second chance. Life doesn’t hand out second chances. Let your child make the mistake. I promise you, this mistake is so very minor compared to the unfortunate seed it will plant in your child’s head if you corner a teacher and make them allow that second chance.
The teacher will give that second chance; but never because she wants to or because it will help your child. She will give that second chance because the alternative is impossible. The alternative means dealing with a parent-teacher conference when she already has a second-afternoon job. If she doesn’t just go along with your Plan A, her Plan B will take time away from the other students. It will mean a missed class because of an RTI meeting in which she will be drilled with questions like:
“What are YOU doing to make sure this child passes?”
“What is YOUR plan for ensuring this child’s success?”
She wants to tell you “no, he needs to learn” but she’s all but forced to say “yes”.
Allowing our children the space for accountability is not easy. It’s as simple as accepting a football game loss instead of gossiping about the referee. It’s allowing our children to see us fail and get back up again. It’s showing that we are the rule-enforcers but also admitting we are human. It’s apologizing when we are wrong. It’s letting them fall without interfering.
I believe we can all agree that our children need praise; our words become our children’s inner monologue, but that praise is often misplaced. We tend to heavily praise the accomplishments and dwell on the failures. We lose sight of the part that matters most: the effort. A perfect average or a big win won’t carry our students through adolescence into adulthood. Resiliency is the trait that will ensure our kids’ long-term success.
Parents, I ask you to please hold your children accountable. Don’t give them a warning and choose not to follow through. I know that it happens sometimes; I do it, too. However, we have to work together for this to work for your child, because whether you like or not, they will spend almost as much time with their teachers as they do with you. Not only do we deserve respect, but your child deserves the discipline. Your child deserves the restrictions and the healthy boundaries. Our job is not to make your child happy; our job is to help them grow.
A big part of growth is failure.