Failing to allow failure

Laura K. Silver is a trustee of the Jewish Light who writes a blog for the paper’s website (  She owns The Paper Trail of St. Louis, a financial and legal concierge service. She is the mother of two elementary school-age children.

By Laura K. Silver

Several years ago, my friend Kevin read me a quote written by a headmaster at a school where he used to teach.  Verbatim, it read:  “I used to think that we were preparing our students for challenges along the path of life, but parents today seem to want us to prepare the path for the students by removing all the challenges.”

As parents, our job is a hard one.  It is tough for us to see our kids feel disappointment, struggle, or even fail. It pains us and rightfully so.  But does this mean that we should shelter our kids from experiencing it?  Absolutely not. 

One of the great things about childhood is that the big mistakes usually aren’t that big. Whether you got the orange popsicle when you should have gotten the red one isn’t going to break you.  Forgetting your homework in elementary school isn’t going to keep you from going to college.  We’re not dealing with insurmountable issues.  This is part of the reason why they are easy for us, as adults, to fix.  But that doesn’t mean that we should.  

Learning from mistakes, learning things the hard way, learning how to deal with disappointment, change of plans, and consequences are life skills.  By “fixing” their problems, we aren’t giving our kids the tools they need to succeed in life.

Beth Shalom Cemetery ad

These things that “don’t matter in the long run” in fact do matter because there are lessons to be gained from them.  When we don’t allow our kids the opportunity to experience failure or setbacks, we send the message that they we do not have the confidence in them to overcome challenges and triumph.  In essence, we rob them of what may otherwise become some of their proudest moments and accomplishments.

Perhaps this is our own lesson, as parents, on this path of life.  We owe it to our kids to be up to the challenge.