Parenting: Why you need to allow your children to fail

In our attempts to notch up these prime life elements for our children, do we become sticklers for perfection, expecting them to be flawless and beyond erring and failing?

By Asha Iyer Kumar

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Published: Thu 8 Feb 2024, 7:21 PM

Dear Parents,

I have always wondered if we parents have a concept of what we want for our children as we raise our young ones through all the societal pressures and domestic challenges. Do we ask ourselves, “What do I want my child to be and to have?” and make a list of attributes and acquisitions? In all probability, we do, and the list will include education, good health, sufficient wealth and virtuous conduct as imperatives for a happy life, and we go the extra mile to secure them a future that will be rated as ‘successful’ in the eyes of the world.

However, in our attempts to notch up these prime life elements for our children, do we become sticklers for perfection, expecting them to be flawless and beyond erring and failing? How much leeway are we prepared to give them in their journey to adulthood—to make mistakes, fall behind and to learn from their failings?

Come to think of it, perfection is a myth. Neither you nor I am infallible. We have all stumbled, fallen, got up and walked to reach where we are today. We learnt from the hurts and hard knocks, and from the price we paid for the blunders. And those discerning moments have served us as sentinels, guarding our steps to the future.

Seen in that light, our faults have been our greatest assets; they have refined and defined us — like Japanese Kintsugi art, in which broken pottery is mended with gold, the gilded crack-lines only enhancing the beauty of the piece. We are what we are today not because of our perfections but because of our defects and defeats. So let us take our children as fine porcelain, accept their shortcomings and help them repair the cracks with gold.

Our children are not sent to us stacked with a set of the most commendable qualities that we could wear like badges of honour on our parenthood. We have been assigned the task of being their friends, philosophers and guides all through their lives. Our responsibility is to keep a tab on them and shepherd them, keeping them from falling on evil ways, but that does not entail picking on their imperfections and making them feel insecure and inadequate. Neither does it help to remind them of their obligation to be epitomes of perfection in all that they do. I have been a witness to many parents indulging in this pitiable act, albeit one would say, it’s all in the interest of the child. That argument, however, doesn’t hold water.

Let’s give our children margins of error and the freedom to fall. But remind them to fall only forward. Every mistake should come with erudition and correction. Forgiveness is not an indefinite allowance. It must give them a realisation of what it has cost them and make them determined to be cautious and prudent in the future. It will embolden them to take risks and venture out into the world, secure in the knowledge that it is OK to flop if they have the will to elevate themselves again.

Our children may not bring us perfect scores or be the smartest kids in the neighbourhood or be the best speakers and performers. They may not have ‘wow’ factors that will make them our social media pride. They may not do things to a tee and may be rough around the edges, but nothing can stop them from growing and glowing in life as long we have their backs. In the allowances we make for them lies their room to expand. Until next, happy parenting.

wknd@khaleejtimes.com


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