Last weekend I read Jennifer O’Connell’s column in the Irish Times. She was talking about stripping back parenting; about keeping it more simple.
I totally agreed with her piece. At the end of it she ran through her top seven tips on how to do it. One of them in particular really stood out in my mind.
It read ‘Allow them (children) to fail on their own terms. Know when to give your advice, then stand back and be on hand to pick them up when they fall. But do let them fall, or they’ll never learn how to land’.
Sound advice. Except it’s advice I don’t follow at the moment. I’m not quite sure if I should be?
Aidan is four and Sarah is three and I think I’m working rather hard to ensure they are confident individuals. But now I think I am trying too hard. Or am I?
A couple of weeks ago I took the kids up to the local GAA club where they had a special night for their underage players. It was a chance for the kids, to get their hands on the silverware the club’s senior team won in 2017.
The kids also had a chance to meet and get their pictures taken with some of the players. Aidan, in particular, had a great evening. He was mesmerized by the trophies.
On the way home he asked us if he could play for the team with the trophies. We told him he could and that he could go to under 7 training the following weekend. He was delighted. “I’m going to get trophies like the ones I seen tonight,” says he.
He has zero concept of how much hard work goes in to winning trophies. He thinks turning up and just being a player means he, and only him, would win all the trophies. He was so delighted with the thought in his head, I didn’t have the heart to tell him that he wouldn’t be winning any trophies at all the following weekend though.
Should I have? I didn’t want to burst his little happy bubble. Is that so wrong? Am I setting him up for trouble as he gets older? Or is he too young for a dose of reality yet? I genuinely don’t know the answers to these questions.
During the summer they both went to a race day in my local athletics club. They both took part in a 100 metre race for their age groups. Aidan actually won his race. Sarah, however, finished last in hers. At the end of the event though, all the kids got a wee trophy. They were so happy. Sarah proclaimed that she had one the race and proudly showed off the trophy. She failed but she didn’t know that. Is that wrong?
She would have been so sad if Aidan got a trophy and she didn’t. I’m glad she got one but there’s plenty of people that wouldn’t be.
She didn’t win anything. She failed but had no clue. Isn’t it nice that she didn’t know? Or are we all setting uo our children for trouble down the line?
You’d never think it if you met him, but Aidan actually lacks confidence. As I said I’m working on building it up. I have mental health issues myself and I’m working hard to ensure they don’t rub off on the kids.
Both of them come out of playschool most days with some artwork they done that day. They are always so proud to hand it over to me. Nine times out of ten I haven’t a clue what it is. Most of it looks like coloured scribbles on a page. I would never in a month of Sunday’s consider telling them that though. I always tell them it’s fantastic and that I love their artwork. There’s nothing wrong with that, is there?
The artwork is probably not the best example. No parent in their right mind would tell a small child that the thing they are proud of is indeed no good.
Should I let my kids fail?
However is the world, and indeed me, too nice these days? Do I need to tell Aidan that his team in the GAA club might never win a trophy?
Do I need to tell Sarah that running maybe isn’t for her? There’s one side of my brain that tells me I should. But there’s the other side of my brain that stops me.
You’re supposed to tell children of their age they can be anything they want, right? If their parents aren’t their biggest fans, then surely we’re doing it wrong? I’m supposed to be in their corner and I am. Maybe I’m setting them up for a fall though. Only time will tell I guess.
All advice on the issue is welcome. Should I let my kids fail?