Failing with Grace
March 6, 2019 by Don Gentle
Trying our hardest may not be enough to win… Does that mean we should not try? While we certainly do not like to think about it, life has at least as many failures (if not more) as it does success. What we do learn about these “trials” is that like anything it takes practice and as we grow we learn to look at them differently. They are not failures, they are trials. Some trials with error, some with success. Let’s talk “Failing with Grace”.
This past week Zoob and I were in the trenches with our daughter, Grace, over a recent trial. Grace had wonderful success by making her way to first-chair in our district band. Certainly a success worth noting. In our state, the first chair in district band sets you up for a seat to compete for a place in the all-state band. To make a long story short, Grace worked hard, practiced well, and tried her best. She did not get a seat. It was a hard reality in our family. And there were several friends that did make the band. A second punch in the gut…
Zoob did a great job of working with Grace through her feelings, focusing on the successes, the learning, the opportunity. All the great words and lessons we have learned as camp directors. For me, I immediately wanted to make it someone else’s fault. I was caught up in the emotion of it all as well. I wanted to make it better somehow. No one like to see their kids upset, crying like life could not get any harder. I was worried about her wanting to continue. I was worried about her confidence. I was certainly not thinking about the lesson.
Sometimes it just sucks to lose. There is no easy way around it. Our family worked through all of it together and we all found positive learning. It does not mean it ever felt good. What I did learn is that this competition was important to Grace; it mattered a lot. She was upset because it was important to her. Do not ever discount passion. Passion breeds success. It keeps us working through our trials. Even when we do not win.
This week has been a little better. I was even impressed that Grace sent off a couple of notes congratulating her friends that did make it. Grace is good about sharing her feelings. She knew it was important to celebrate her friends’ success, but she also said it was very hard to do. She is still working through the trails, but Grace is also focusing on what she has learned.
Important ideas to remember about failure (trials).
- Failure builds experience. We learn about working through the pain while learning empathy and respect.
- Failure builds knowledge. You find your “current” limits. It gives you a baseline.
- Failure builds resilience. It makes you tough. It allows us to try harder. You can not lecture your children on resilience. You have to feel it.
- Failure builds growth. It matures us. We have a deeper understanding of living and why/what we are doing with our time here.
Wow, that is pretty deep. It was a big week for us. I have learned a few lessons from others too. Below are a few ideas I just picked up recently from Author, Wendy Mogel. She is a little “in your face” at times, especially for a southerner, but her reflections and lectures have inspired thousands of independent schools and parents.
How to work with your children with “unsuccess.” When our results do not meet our expectations.
- Remember that disappointments are necessary preparation for adult life. When your child doesn’t get invited to a friend’s birthday party, make the team, or get a big part in the play, stay calm. Without these experiences, she’ll be ill-equipped for the real world.
- Remember that kids are hardy perennials, not hothouse flowers. Let them be cold, wet, or hungry for more than a second and they’ll appreciate the chance to be warm, dry, and fed.
- Praise the process and not the product. Appreciating your child’s persistence and hard work reinforces the skills and habits that lead to success far more than applauding everyday achievements or grades.
- Don’t fret over or try to fix what’s not broken. Accept your child’s nature even if he’s shy, stubborn, moody, or not great at math.
- Be alert but not automatically alarmed. Question yourself. Stop and reflect: is this situation unsafe or just uncomfortable for my child? Is it an emergency or a new challenge?
- Learn to love the words “trial” and “error.” Let your child make mistakes before going off to college. Grant freedom based on demonstrated responsibility and accountability, not what all the other kids are doing.
We need to work through failures and learn that they are a very important part of growing up and success. Read more parenting tips here.