Failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success. (Arianna Huffington)
We have all bought the lie that there is no room for today’s teen to fail academically, socially, and athletically, and that in fact any form of failure is a great embarrassment to everyone involved. Wow, how did it come to this? That we are focused on perfection and that the ability to not succeed is catastrophic. What are we teaching our teens and what unrealistic expectations are we putting on our teens? How does that reflect on our parenting? We’ll think about this a bit.
Notice how quick parents are to share college acceptance letters, scholarships, SAT scores, and pretty much any success athletically or socially that their high schoolers have for everyone to see on social media? It makes us proud, but it also validates our parenting and the “village” of people that contributed to the raising of this outstanding teen. We all want to take credit (as a parent, we feel we have had a role in our teen’s success) and celebrate our teenager’s great accomplishments, and we should! We need to celebrate any and all wins with our teen, but perhaps it is time to examine where, with who and how we celebrate the wins. Just as important, what do we do when our teen fails? Often when failure happens, we scatter, don’t talk about it, or blame others and take on the victim mentality. We do this because failure by our teen means failure on our part. But does it? Or have we as parents decided that our teen’s failure is bad and shameful and we should hide it. How does this help our teen?
We have our greatest learning opportunities when we face adversity and failure. We learn resilience, grit, and that there is more than one way to create success. It is a learning opportunity to discuss with our teen. To embrace the failure and the reason behind the failure. Our fear of failure has ended up making our teenagers fear failure, the consequences of which can be crippling. Your teen may not apply for a summer job, try out for a team or talk to a stranger because what if they don’t get the job, make the team or the person does not want to be their friend. Failure is not something that can be avoided but something to be celebrated in that your teen is learning and growing in who they are and building new skills and capabilities.
Knowing that your teen failed algebra because they did not understand the material and needs extra help or a tutor is a different learning curve than your teen thinking not doing the homework would be okay and that somehow they would pass the course. Both of these situations teach a life skill that is invaluable to your teen. Having your teen not get a job, allows them to process what skills they need to get the job next time. Not making a sports team or being on the starting lineup allows your teen to decide how to change that outcome. Failure creates the opportunity for growth, and goal setting to help your teen achieve the success they want.
As parents we need to refocus and redefine how we celebrate the victories with our teens and facilitate their learning from their failures. The road to success is filled with many rough spots.