top of page
  • Anonymous

The Importance of Failure

Failure. It sounds so negative. I have arrived to a place in life where I firmly believe there's great value in failure. That doesn't mean it's easy and it doesn't mean it's pretty but,  there is value.

As a mom my first exposure to the discomfort of watching my children fail or be uncomfortable was when my son was in second grade. You see, he chose to have hot lunch that day. It was macaroni and cheese and he was extremely excited. Imagine my surprise when I walked into the lunchroom ( side note: I was a substitute in his school. ) and saw him with his head down crying. When I asked him what was wrong he just replied, “It's not the blue box.”

Well,  I was mortified. What school would dare to make homemade macaroni and cheese when everyone knows kids prefer the blue box? I had to step away and gather my thoughts. “Pull it together,”  I told myself. “He won't die of starvation between now and 3:30. He's just going to be sad and a little hungry.” There's a value in that disappointment. It doesn't always go your way and sometimes you have to make a choice between trying something different and being a little hungry.

Next up, high school. The reality of it is even though your kid might have skills,  the coach might not see it that way. Your kid  might not be the starting point guard. Shoot,  he might not even play at all. I quickly learned that,  regardless of it was a good coach or a less than desirable one, there was something to be learned. Sometimes it was the kind of man you wanted to be and sometimes it was the kind of man you don't ever want to be. Was it uncomfortable to watch in the moment? Yes, but there was a lesson to be learned.

Let's move on to the college years. My eldest son decided to take advantage of a 7-week study abroad in Italy. I knew he was a homebody. He knew he was a homebody. But he knew this was a trip of a lifetime. So I shouldn't have been surprised when the first night in Italy he called to let me know he thought he “may have made a mistake” {by going}. I felt a pit in my stomach grow as I talked him through the tears and helped him see those seven weeks as one week at a time and all the things there were to gain and learn and how proud he'd be when he got through them all. I won't lie, we had that conversation several times over the 7 weeks and I drank a lot of wine. Uncomfortable? Yes.  Lessons to be learned?  Yes. To this day he has zero regrets about that trip.

My other son ended up with what I can only say was less than desirable roommates his sophomore year  in college. Think mean girls, only with boys. I never knew such a thing even existed!  Through the entire thing when we talked about it I was able to stress to him how important it was for him to make certain, regardless of what anyone else did,  he needed to do the right thing at every turn so he would be  able to walk away with his head held high. And he did! I couldn't be more proud and I firmly believe that he is a better human being because of it.

In the end, failure is uncomfortable but it's when we are uncomfortable that we grow the most.

In my professional life, I am a special education administrator at an elementary school. I have the privilege of working with parents of very young children. In a time of COVID and shootings that will never be understood, I am charged with giving parents the confidence that their little one will be okay in our care. Sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes I have to call and have difficult conversations but the lessons I have learned through failure and discomfort are put to great use.  I truly feel that I'm able to help the parents see that the time for failure and not getting things the way you want is now when they're 4, 5, 7,  10 or even 16 years old. Now is the time where they can learn from failure without it changing the trajectory of their life.

Didn’t get your friends in your class at school…find the lesson.

Didn’t make the team...find the lesson.

Someone was mean…find the lesson.

Your children are watching how you react when things go wrong. Like it or not, they are watching.

Sure there were times my boys were upset over a failure and it was painful to watch. I may have even cried after putting them to bed. But when I look at the young men they are today, I know the things I allowed them to experience, the failures and disappointments, gave them skills they will have long after I am gone.  There were many failures I could have “fixed” but I chose to help them get through it. I coached them through it. I never took the “oh it’s fine” approach.  I agreed that something was unfair or that it stunk. But I never called and fixed it. If they wanted to talk to someone about their grade or their time on the court, I coached them on how to do it. If someone was being a jerk, I coached them through it.  Long after your child forgets that they got to play point guard, they'll remember how to settle an argument in an agreeable way. They will be able to deal with life's disappointments and move on.

I encourage you to take that deep breath and think it through before you decide to make everything fair and protect your child from all disappointment and failure.

Kids who can handle disappointment and failure in a healthy way  become adults that can handle disappointment and failure in a healthy way. Look around, watch the news, couldn’t we use more humans like that?

XO - A Loving Mother & Educator


Thanks for submitting!

  • Instagram
Black Marble



bottom of page