Are You Afraid to Let Your Child Fail?


We all hate failing. And we hate watching our children fail. I think it may very well be one of the most painful things about parenting. When our child hurts, we hurt. Sometimes, and in my case, we hurt beyond their level of hurting. As in, they have moved on but we haven’t, or should I say I haven’t. Even as I write this I can think back on challenges my children have faced and feel the sting of it as if it were yesterday. Can you relate to this painful feeling? I have to continually tell myself, Move on! That is the past! They are fine now!

What’s worse is when I step in to “assist” my child—and all of my kids are adults so I am revealing my recovery as an obsessed mom—and try and veer them from what I see as a potential failure.

Key words here are “I” and “potential.”

This happened recently. My daughter invited us over for dinner. It was her first “dinner party” as a married woman and she wanted everything to be as perfect as possible. We were on the phone when she told me what time she was putting dinner in the crock-pot. Of course, I was concerned it wouldn’t be ready on time and suggested a different time. Aren’t I brilliant?

Really? She’s an adult! I think she knows how to do this! 

I have had too many times where my dinner parties were ruined because I didn’t plan time for cooking well. We all remember the Christmas Lasagna Debacle. Haven’t you had times where things just didn’t cook right and in the time you had planned? I can’t be the only one.

This caused her to doubt herself. I could hear my dear son-in-law, “She’s got this. You’re causing her anxiety.”

She said, “Mom, I got the recipe on Pinterest and I’m following that.”

“Oh honey, I’m so sorry. You know what you’re doing I’m sure it will be great.”

I didn’t even know how to spell Pinterest. I had to look it up! I can really be a total lame-brain. All I should have said was, “I’m so excited! I can’t wait to eat your delicious dinner.” Period! Period. Period!

Okay, well here’s my point and huge revelation. It is better to let your kids fumble and learn than to step in and try and save the day. I was really trying to spare her what I thought could be a misstep for her because it had been for me so many times.

But isn’t that how we learn—by making mistakes? Isn’t that how you learned?

If you have a teenager for instance, sometimes the best thing you can do is allow them to mess-up. I know you want to step in and be the hero, me too. How will they learn if you always save the day?

This is something I’ve always struggled with. As you can tell by my story about my daughter, I never want to see my kids take a tumble. I think many times it is harder on me than on them.

It is through failure that we learn.

Can you think of one person who has had huge success who hasn’t had huge fumbles along the way? I can’t either. If you want to see extraordinary played out in your child’s life, you’ve got to let them fail.

When failure is big the greater the potential victory.

And when your child has a major fumble, show abundant grace. When they fail, come alongside and help them through the challenge without judgment. This is especially true if your child is a teenager. The more judgment you show, the more they will keep things inside and not open up.

Consequences are a great teacher. What I’ve learned is I just need to be there to help them get up.

Be a Gracian. Yes, I just made that word up. Spread grace to others, especially your family.

Give yourself grace.

Do you find it difficult to find balance between stepping in and allowing your child to experience natural consequences? I do. I am always in search of that balance. One misstep at a time toward balance.

Onward fellow Gracian!

And if you were wondering, here are some pictures from our delightful and delicious dinner. Mine vegetarian of course! As you can see from the pictures the failure on that day was all mine.


2 thoughts on “Are You Afraid to Let Your Child Fail?

  1. Thanks Lu, I really appreciate your story here, I am also guilty as a parent who likes to save the day for my daughter, though I know I may be hindering her growth in doing so, I struggle with allowing her to go through the consequences, honestly, I have looked at her struggles and failures as my own. Though that could be partially true, always feeling like I hadn’t trained her well, but then I realize the truth is, she must learn for herself some things in order to grow into a mature adult woman, thanks for your encouragement, and reminder, that to be a Gracian, is the best answer! God bless!

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