‘My son tried out for the basketball team. I had a knot in the pit of my stomach. I couldn’t handle breaking the news.’ Mom explains importance of letting kids ‘fall flat on their faces’

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Son: Why?
Dad: Because other kids made the team.
Son: Oh, okay.

That was it. That was their conversation in its entirety. I couldn’t help but ask my son later, ‘Are you disappointed?’ He said, ‘Of course, but I don’t spend a lot of time playing basketball. I’m going to practice and try again next year.’ Well, alright then. I’m so glad his dad knew it could be as simple as, ‘You didn’t make it. It stinks. Work hard. Try again.’

As parents, we want the best for our children. We want the doors of opportunity to fly open. We want our children to be successful and happy. We want them to experience minimal pain and live exceptional lives. But overprotecting our kids can sometimes cause harm and embarrassment — no kid really wants their parents intervening constantly in their lives. I always have to remind myself that saving my kids from immediate disappointment could cause long-term pain . . . or at least keep them from learning coping skills they might really want later. These are the lessons that I try to remember when I’m tempted to save my kids from failing:

Failure helps you learn about yourself.
No matter what it is in life, I think it’s invaluable to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. My son had the courage to try out for a team and realized he did not have the skills to be among those players. Then, he had a choice to either spend the time to get better or spend his time doing something else. He knew (again, props to his dad, who demonstrated it for him) feeling sorry for himself was not one of his options.

Everyone has different talents.
I want my kids to believe in themselves, but I believe that telling them they can be anything they want to be sends them into the wild without a map. I always try to accompany lofty goals with specific steps to help achieve them. My kids are going to have different talents, goals, and ideas than I do. And while it’s hard to overcome the fact that they truly are their own people and don’t want the same things I want, I want them to be able to successfully pursue what they love.

Doing hard things means it won’t always be easy.
To flex those perseverance muscles, I encourage my kids to stick with the things they want to get good at. I want them to gain a sense of mastery. Becoming successful and achieving something doesn’t happen instantly. There is a process, and I want them to understand what it takes. Even celebrities who appear to have fame out of nowhere are out there hustling. Think of the small percentage of YouTubers who actually make it big. What appears to us as Insta-Fame is actually the byproduct of grit, perseverance, timing, and luck.

Falling on your face won’t kill you.
Failure is part of the human experience. Failure is acceptable. Failure is not life-ending. When the kids were really little, I would take in a dramatic, audible breath anytime one of them fell. Either my mom or husband would remind me that if I make a big deal over their wipeout, it suddenly becomes an unnecessarily big deal to them, too. I’m learning that kids falling is the same as adults failing. Don’t make it a big deal, if it doesn’t have to be.

I am trying (often unsuccessfully) to keep my big fat mouth shut as my kids experience defeat, heartbreak, or failure. A couple of go-to questions I have in my back pocket are, ‘Do you need anything from me in this moment? What can you do differently next time?’ And then I run out of the room before I am tempted to make it all better. I’m trying to train myself to let them fail, even though it’s so hard to see my kids hurt, in trouble, or disappointed.

I trust that the scrapes, bumps, and bruises they survive over the years will make them better and stronger people — as they made me a better person. And I don’t want to take those learning experiences away from my kids.”

Courtesy of Jessica Nazario

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jessica Nazario of The Mom Reality. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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