Letting Your Child Fail

Dr. Louise Hartley, Director of York University Psychology Clinic discusses the importance of emotional resiliency in children and why it’s okay for kids to experience failure to become confident adults.


Photography courtesy Lance Neilson via Flickr

Parents are there to protect and love their children. So, it’s no surprise some parents don’t want their child to feel the horrible pangs of failure. However, professionals believe it’s better for children to fail to become a well rounded adults. Dr. Louise Hartley, Director of York University Psychology Clinic explains the reasons and gives some tips on how to better help children deal with failure.

“Emotional resiliency is the ability to bounce back…[from] something upsetting in your life. For a child it could be getting a failing grade, being excluded from going to birthday parties or anything that’s emotionally upsetting. The other part of resiliency is the ability to handle change,” said Dr. Hartley. “Resiliency is no different in children than it is in adults.”

Bubble wrapped kids

She argues too often parents bubble wrap their kids and don’t want them to feel the pangs of failure. It’s important to assist your child when he or she feels a certain way, but how much is too much? Parents who are too hyperactive in solving all of their child’s issue can hinder their emotional resiliency.

“If we always protect our kids from ever experiencing failure or jump in too quickly then they don’t discover their own resiliency, their own strengths, the ability to become good problem solvers or people who can regulate their emotions.”

Emotions at work

It’s important not to discount your child’s feelings when they approach you and to figure out why they are feeling that way.

“How often when a kid is whiny do we say they are tired versus thinking what’s going on, do you need a hug? Are you feeling lonely?” said Dr. Hartley. “So you want to help them to be able to articulate what they need, to help them regain equilibrium and confidence.”

Label your feelings

Help children express their feelings. Often times children are misunderstood because they don’t know how to articulate what they are feeling.

“One part of emotional resiliency is being able to label your feelings…something’s make you angry, something’s make you sad,” she said. “Too often as parent, a kid will come home and say I’m stupid. Parents will say, no you’re not stupid versus saying something must have upset you today…help me understand why you’re feeling stupid.”

Building stronger relationships

A key part of emotional resiliency is having strong relationships. Adults and children alike need those strong friendships in life to help them feel like they belong. These relationships only grow stronger through communication.

“Sometimes we don’t know what we need,” she said. “Teach them to say, I need a hug, it’s a lot easier to say.”

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