My son was learning to ride a bike without training wheels and visibly upset that he did not master it at the first attempt. I found myself torn between wanting to hold onto the back so he would not fall over. Yet knowing that I needed to let go and let him fall if he was ever going to learn to ride without me running beside him.
Don’t get me wrong, of course I want him to be a master biker and get it within the first five minutes. No mother wants their child to fall down and scrape their knee. But I knew that was not reality. He had to fail and then learn to stifle his anger enough, so that he could learn to try again, and again, and again, and again.
So I let go. And he fell. Many, many times he fell. He was mad that he did not learn it in the first attempt. Very, very mad. Yet he kept on trying until I called him in.
Then I told him the “guess how many times Thomas Edison failed at creating the light bulb” story. I would like to say that he was dazzled and impressed with my story. But that would be a lie.
He thought that day was all about learning to ride a bike, but to me, it was about something much more…
I was discussing my son’s homework with the Dean, when I told her “I want my kids to fail”. She looked at me in disbelief. I went on to explain how I thought that homework should be easy enough that the kids can do it on their own (after all, it is their homework), yet still challenging. I want them to struggle a bit, I do not want them to get every problem correct. Because if they did, then they would not learn one of the most important lessons to be learned – how to try your best and still fail. Then to learn to try again, and again, and again until you get it right.
My kids are going to fail, that is a guarantee. No one is able to do everything perfectly the first time around. If my kids are going to succeed in life, they have to learn how to fail. It is far better that they learn that lesson while they are still at home and the stakes are low, so that when they get out on their own, and the stakes are higher, they will know how to fail and still thrive. They will know how to stand back up again.
If I always fix it for them, they will never learn to keep at it. And if they do not learn that lesson, then I will have failed at my job. So, I let him fall. But then I was right there to encourage him as he got back up again and tried again.
“Seek peace and pursue it” Psalm 34:14b