Monthly Archives: August 2019

Parents, We Need to Let Our Kids Fail If We Truly Want Them to Succeed!

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.



How can I tear my tween away from that screen?

– Yalda T Uhls, PhD

The digital revolution has transformed children’s lives. For those of us who didn’t grow up with a small handheld device glued to our bodies, this new normal looks anything but. The good news is that so far, most research finds that kids are doing what they’ve always done: using peer relationships as a mirror for forming their identity. The only difference is that 21st-century technology amplifies these normal developmental desires and needs. While friends have always been crucial during early adolescence, nowadays, thanks to the Internet and mobile communication, peer opinions are accessible to adolescents 24/7.

So instead of developing their identities through gossiping in school hallways and trying out for the school play, today’s kids refine their virtual selves by posting photos and videos online before an audience of often hundreds of peers, many of whom they’ve never met. When we grew up, we had to guess (or ignore) our social status based on the behavior of people we knew in the physical world (Why did she give me that look? Why didn’t he ask me to dance?), but now kids can quantifiably measure what behavior brings popularity through virtual likes, comments, and shares. For some teens, this capability underscores an almost obsessive focus on sharing every moment of their lives on social media.

This shift toward personalized screen time could be affecting our children’s development in a number of ways. Not only are kids exposed to a narrower band of content, shaped for their tastes, but they also lose the benefit of a parent’s perspective on the narratives. It also means that families and friends are no longer in the same rooms, and some sense of community is undoubtedly lost.

In addition, because communication through screens is so simple, we probably spend less time looking at each other. Our early adopters — kids and teenagers — may be sacrificing essential social learning. As in the past, most of the adults were conversing face to face, but this time, the kids were sitting in a row on a couch, facing forward, staring at their phones. Even in the midst of a swirl of activity, five tween girls ignored one another to focus on their devices.

Humans learn about feelings through face-to-face communication, and research shows that understanding emotions inform empathy. Our facial expressions, our tone of voice, and our body language are just a few of the ways we communicate how we are feeling to other people. The understanding of emotions begins to develop when children are very young, and screens cannot teach the same understanding.

So what’s the solution — live under a rock, cut out all media, or move to the North Pole? Not feasible for most of us living in the real world. Instead, parents would do well to make the most of the media in their children’s lives and proactively manage the tech beast with these three principles.

Make screen time, together time

By choosing great stories with subject matter worth discussing, and watching with your kids, you can help media support your child’s development rather than unravel it. If your children enjoy video games, play with them. Try one of the many apps or games designed to develop empathy. No matter what the media, if you’re in the room helping your children think about what they’re watching and how it makes them feel, you can help them build meaningful insight.

Take a screen vacation

Show your children you value face-to-face time with your actions, not just your words. One idea is to build device-free time into your family’s day. If everyone (yes, that means the adults are not allowed to check their phones for status updates or work emails) puts down their devices and spends time looking at each other, you will model the value of old-fashioned conversation, a skill many kids need to practice.


Teach appreciation, minute by minute

Finally, though the bonds between teens and their technology seem so strong that influencing their behavior may seem impossible, don’t give up. You can teach them to enjoy the everyday moments — even without a camera. When traveling during a vacation, encourage your children to put down their phones for 30 minutes and enjoy the surroundings or scenery, be a part of the conversation during the family lunch, etc.


Adapted and Abridged