My basement carpet is most often littered with glitter and pompoms and various other crafty supplies. A full corner is filled with tables, and countless drawers of mess-making materials. There’s paint on the carpet, and artwork the kids have created all over every surface, and taped to the walls. It’s chaos, and I love it. It’s my kids’ space to explore and create, and invent.
To us, a mess means you’ve had fun.
Dirt means exploration.
And failure reflects effort.
I believe in letting kids explore (safely, of course), and I also believe that exploration includes failing. I let my kids fail, and I think that’s ok. In fact, I think it’s better than ok; I think it’s required.
As a parent, it’s my job to help my kids grow into adults, and part of that is understanding that trying and failing is the only path to trying and then succeeding. Life’s all about disappointments and thrills, so why should I protect them from all those feelings? It’s not that I enjoy seeing my kids sad, because that’s the farthest from what I want. But I want them to be able to process their feelings, and accept the negative stuff along with the positive.
Whenever my kids get frustrated doing something they can’t seem to master, I say, “Fall down…” and they reply, “…get back up!”. It’s our way of reminding each other that falling is totally ok, and as long as you keep getting up, it’s a learning experience and not a failure.
We take the same stance with failing a test as we do with falling off a skateboard — when you fall, you get back up. If you fail a test, you figure out why, and you do better next time. If you can’t seem to master riding a bike without training wheels, you keep practicing. If you can’t tie your shoes, you keep trying.
Life is all about trial and error, it’s what thrills us about adventure and what gives us wings to grow. I let my kids fail so I can watch them revel in their successes, and I urge you to give your kids the independence to do the same.
I promise you they’ll find their wings, too.