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The Importance of Letting Your Child Fail

The Importance of Letting Your Child Fail

As kids, we all had a friend whose parent could be overbearing: The parent who would always make a second trip to the school to drop off the lunch box that their child left on the kitchen counter or the parent who would volunteer for every school trip so that they could be there with their child.

These parents are known as helicopter parents, and in today's society, they are more anxious and stressed than ever before. They fear failure and don't want to see their child experience the same pains.

As a result, they are suppressing the opportunity for their child to learn and develop as an individual.

Cultural portrayals of failure and ‘losers’ have created a stigma around failure. Fear of failure is not natural in children, who learn best by trial and error.

Instead, it is created by the anxious parent who projects their fear onto their child. This fear of failure results in over-parenting.  

It is not uncommon to see a parent stepping in and changing lifelong rules for their child.

In an attempt to distort reality to protect their child, the parent creates false expectations and assumptions. What starts off as a well-intended act of parenting could actually be causing damage by stripping the sense of independence.

Parents have moved away from the idea of, “If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again,” and allowed their children to stop short after failure.

Letting kids fail in life is an essential milestone in their journey to success.

The Value of Failure

Today's culture values the absence of pain and failure.

Of course, it is difficult for any parent to see their child experience discomforts such as physical injuries, peer rejection, or heartbreak.

As adults, we recognize that a great deal of pain can often be related to failure and try to prevent it for the next generation. Yet there is value in failure to be found.

Failure is inevitable and a natural part of childhood.

A despairing child may cry out, “It’s too hard! I can’t do it. I need help.”

A parent might be tempted to help by completing the challenging task for them or make it easier. However, in doing this, the parent is removing the child’s ability to practice, learn and try again.

Using a Tee post to aid your child as they learn how to hit a baseball is acceptable at first. Once they become experienced, proceeding to make things easier for them will only harm their skill to be a great player.

They will wonder why they didn’t make the team, but it was because they were not challenged to be better.

Limiting a child will prevent them from breaking through the dam and achieving their real potential.

If parents refrain from remove obstacles from a child’s life journey, they will have the opportunity to learn to overcome challenges themselves.

Disappointment often accompanies failure and is strongly felt when a child relates the consequences to their own actions and takes on the responsibility.

Taking ownership of their failures can be disheartening at times, but is rewarding in the end.

As kids experience failure, disappointment can weigh heavily on their shoulders and discourage them at times. Yet, it will prepare them to respond and not react to the next similar situation in the same way.

They should be allowed to experience and understand their feelings and know how to cope with them in the future.

Defining Failure and Creating a Safe Space to Fail

To begin fighting back against the epidemic of fear, we have to identify and attack the root which is the stigmatization of failure.

‘Failure’ and ‘losing’ are two terms that have become synonymous, creating a taboo around the pair.

Redefining failure as separate from the concepts of winning and losing is important. Parents should promote healthy ideas of failing and encourage effort and integrity.

This will aid in creating a safe environment for your child to fail in.

Home and school are naturally safe environments for children to experience and experiment with failure.

Failures in these setting have low-risk consequences and are meant to aid in the child’s development.

They should be challenged to problem solve in their academic and athletic experiences. Parents should avoid interference and encourage perseverance instead.

Experience is the best teacher, though parents like to think they are.

Kids can use failure as an opportunity to learn and think for themselves. Think and work through the experience with them without manipulating their emotions and thought process.

Negative emotions and pain will come with failure, and that is okay.

Not making the sports team or failing a math test may seem like the end of the world to an adolescent but remind them that it's natural and that they will be okay.

They should learn to understand their emotions and learn to work with them in the future.

Praise their genuine efforts. Even when they try their absolute best, they may find themselves failing. Continue to be their number one fan without giving undue praise.

Rewarding minimal effort is misleading and harmful. Encourage your children to persevere and do their best.

Let merit shine through.

Sports make cuts to remain competitive, rewarding hard work and sportsmanship.

Encourage your child also to value hard work, building their own path to reach their goals.

Michael Jordan said, “I've failed over and over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed.” 

It is hard to see our kids upset or disappointed, yet even one of the greatest athletes recognizes the importance of failure.

Creating a safe space for them to fail and encouraging perseverance will help them learn to turn those failures into successes.


Talking To Your Athlete After the Game

Talking To Your Athlete After the Game

After a long and hard fought game, the car ride home may be the toughest part of the day for your young athlete.

As spectators, it is every parent’s temptation to debrief their athlete on their big game after its done. As parents, we may have our own ideas about the coaches’ plays or how the team could improve.

Yet your criticisms may be adding fuel to a quiet fire.

Your athlete’s coach and their teammates are a constant voice in their ear throughout the game. They may already be feeling the weight of the outcome and their performance from their comments.

Creating a safe space in the car will help your athlete cope with the worst loses and celebrate hard-earned wins.

Know what to say after the big game. Here are some tips to help with the car ride home from a loss.

The Car Ride Home - Do and Don'ts

Words of encouragement come easily before a game.

We hope the team will try their best and have fun on the field. As the game progresses, however, it may be harder to remain a confident voice in the crowd.

As athletes begin to come off the field, it is important to meet them where they are.

As you get them in the car, be present to what they need.

Catch them in their Triumphant Moments

To be present after the game, be sure you are in the moment during the whole game. Kids will check to see if you caught them taking a big shot or scoring a goal.

Put down your phone and give the game your attention. This will allow you to recall your favorite plays on the ride home.

Celebrate those moments with your athlete. Keep the focus on what they did well.

Do Not try to compare them to other players

Be proud of the team as a whole instead of undermining other players. Your child will not feel better by listening to their teammates being put down.

Don't undermine the coach or the officials

The coach and officials are there to make the game fun and safe.

Undermining their decisions could confuse and upset your child, who looks to their coach for instruction.

Support the coaches decisions and speak well of rules. Kids learn sportsmanship through example and should always be encouraged to play fairly and be respectful.

Make it Safe for Your Child to Fail

You may have plenty to say after the game but take a moment before you speak and imagine what they must be thinking.

Create a comfortable space to have an open conversation.

Don't Monologue

Create a space for dialogue, not a monologue.

Let them start the conversation. It may not be immediate, but the may need to reflect. Taking a moment of silence in the car for you and your athlete may be necessary.

They may be analyzing their game and reflecting on how they played. As they gather their thoughts, keep an open ear.

Don't Discourage with Disappointment

Many feelings may emerge with the outcome of a match and disappointment is a natural feeling in any competitive sport.

Soothing feelings of disappointment may be a parent’s first instinct. Yet, allowing our kids to feel loss and talk through those feelings are an essential part of growth.

Parents should be prepared to be receptive to those feelings and empathize with them.

Kids should not be afraid to fail and understand that this is a part of growing and learning; they are still validated and loved regardless.

Allow Your Child to take Ownership of the Outcome

It can be hard as parents not to share everything with our kids, even their victories and loses.

We have all witnessed the overly excited parent at every soccer or baseball game. It is important to step back and detach yourself from their successes and defeats.

Let them approach you about their thoughts and feelings on the game.

Do Not Put Words in Their Mouth

They will find the right words in their own time.

You may have thoughts on the game, but they should be the first to express what is on their mind.  Ask for their input on the game so they can evaluate their own performance.

Whether good or bad, their gameplay belongs to them to celebrate or learn from. The experience is not for parents, but for your athlete to take ownership of.

Don't Excuse Poor Sportsmanship

Shielding our kids from harm causes more harm than allowing them to take responsibility for their actions.

Tantrums and trash talk are often excused away because their team lost. Some parents may even take part in poor sportsmanlike behavior, reaffirming the child's behavior.

Speak to your athlete in the car if you catch them behaving like a bad sport. Never let there be an excuse for offensive words or aggressive behavior.

There is no formula for the right thing to say after a game. Every defeat and every victory will bring new challenges to your athlete. Be prepared to meet their emotions by controlling yours. Meet them where they need you, and lead by example.

Raise a good sport by being a good sport in the most challenging game to every parent... the car ride home.

Striking Out With the Refs: Teaching Young Athletes Respect for Officials

It has become more common than ever, that we see professionals fighting the referee on TV.

Calls are aggressively disputed, and game officials are verbally harassed.

Professional athletes are role models in sportsmanship and watching them demean the referee begs the question, why can’t the kids?

Disrespecting the rules and the referee are a demonstration of poor sportsmanship, which even the pros can be guilty of. It is the role of coaches and parents to lead by example.

We may not always agree with a call and take it personally when our own kid is the one at the center of the attention.

It is important to remember that referees are qualified experts at their jobs, deserving all of our respect and extension of good sportsmanship.

Referees Deserve Respect

You may think the ref is there to ruin your team's game personally, but they are actually doing their job.

Gratitude should be expressed towards officials, who devote time to help youth sporting events. They have worked hard to earn players, coaches and parents respect, they don’t get their position overnight.

Often times, they will be asked to take several courses during their spare time to refine their knowledge of the rules and emergency preparation.

Referees devote a lot of time to make everyone’s game fair, safe, and fun.

Referees have Reputation

It is common for referees to be well versed in the sport they are officiating.

A good referee will have passion and experience to back up his knowledge.

They have insider knowledge and vision on the field and should be trusted to make the right calls.

Referees call out bad sportsmanship

Even pro athletes don’t get away with poor sportsmanship.

Professional referees will penalize aggressive players, as they do not tolerate disrespect. Youth league referees may not bench your kid for the season, but they won’t put up with poor treatment.

You may find that the ref has a slight bias against the team that is arguing with them rather than the team that plays by the rules.

Setting the Example - Teaching Respect

Respect is an essential part of sportsmanship.

Coaches and parents are both guilty of sometimes disagreeing with the ref on behalf of their athlete’s team.

Remember they are human and doing their job. Approach them with sportsmanlike manners and your athlete will learn by example.

Create a Dialogue

Trash talk and yelling are never sportsmanlike.

Allowing the coach to create conversation makes for a smoother interaction, where both parties can come to an understanding and discuss the call made.

Thank the referee after the game and ask your athlete to do the same.

Treat them with Sportsmanlike Behavior by recognizing the referee and officials as part of the team which will encourage respect.

Like the coach, the referee is there to ensure safe and fun gameplay. They care about the rules and about both teams fairly. They are a necessary part of the game and deserve that appreciation.

They make events possible for your kids to play safely and should be treated with respect.

Create a Welcoming Environment

Home games are an excellent opportunity for athletes and parents to show their gratitude and support.

Creating a safe and welcoming space for referees will make them feel good about participating in your event.

This isn't exclusive to just the referees; welcoming the away team is an excellent display of sportsmanship as well. Ask friends and family in the stands to refrain from booing and jeering. Everyone should take part in respecting those on the field.

It’s Just a Game!

It is not necessary to take anything personally. The referee is not there just to penalize your kid. They are there to help everyone enjoy a game in a safe environment.

Encourage your child to focus on having fun and do their best.

Managing your feelings comes with remembering the element of fun. Anger and disappointment should not be aimed at the referees or coaches.

Remain a positive and supportive voice in the stands-towards your athlete and the referee. Good sportsmanship is taught, through experience and lead by example.

It can be easy to get carried away at any youth sporting event and call out the ref from the stands. Coaches and parents often disagree with the neutral party, that is the referee, which encourages kids to disagree too.

Asking our athletes to respect referees, begins with coaches and parents respecting them as well. Referees are authority figures that are meant to follow the rules and system of the sport.

Like a coach or a parent, it is never acceptable to disrespect an authority figure because you disagree with their decision.

Treating the referee and the rules with respect is part of the game and the responsibility as an athlete and fan.

As coaches and parents, we must encourage the extension of good sportsmanship to every player involved in, including the opposing teams, coaches, and game officials.


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