Failing for Success

Failing for success

Failing for Success

As a DBT therapist, one of my primary goals when working with clients is to help supply effective skills and coping mechanisms to help them manage their emotions when things may be difficult. While reviewing these skills, I often find that these children, adolescents and young adults have had very little opportunity to build and/or practice coping mechanisms on their own since they were little.

Overbearing parentsThe cause? Overeager parents swooping in to save the day, time and again. By trying to make sure our kids have little successes in the short term, are we actually setting them up for much bigger failures in the long term?

As noted in Psychology Today (2014) “overparenting young adults breeds narcissism and poor coping skills. And having ineffective coping skills amplifies anxiety and stress.” Yes, as parents we want to protect our children and make sure they grow into healthy, successful and empathetic adults; and at what point are we doing just the opposite by shielding them from failing?

Whether it means putting all the different shaped pegs in the ‘correct’ hole for your toddler (rather than letting them figure it out on their own), or looking over every essay to make sure there are no grammatical errors to ensure that ‘A’ grade. Maybe it’s calling the parent of a kid your child had a conflict with in school to try and fix it yourself, or maybe it’s doing your teenager’s college applications for them because you ‘know best.’ Where do we draw the line?

What would be so bad with letting your child receive an F on a test or have to write a second draft of an essay? What IF your child didn’t get into their first-choice college? Would the world end?

When kids and young adults are used to succeeding at everything in life, when do they have the opportunity to learn the essential coping mechanisms of dealing with stress, anxiety and failure? The simple answer is, they don’t.

By creating a society of only winners, we fail to recognize how much one can learn by ‘losing.’ Every day in my office I see children who are less and less resilient, shattering when things don’t go their way. Losing is a great opportunity to teach kids to not give up, to try different ways of doing things and most importantly, that the cards aren’t ALWAYS going to fall in your favor (and that is OKAY!). Resilience is not something that can be taught, it has to be learned and come from within.

The next time you want to call your child’s teacher and argue for a better grade or jump in to solve your child’s argument on the playground, take a moment to stop and think what lesson you are teaching your child and how it will impact them in the future.


Authored by: Tracey Weiss