Don’t Shield Them from Loss and Failure

Here are some lines from a movie. See if you recognize them: “What is pain? Fresh bread! What is fatigue? Underclothes!” They are from the movie “Remember the Titans”, a great movie with many lessons embedded within. This particular scene shows Denzel Washington as Coach Boone training his football team on how to endure pain and fatigue. In essence, he is teaching them not only about football, but also about life.

We bring this up here because of a disturbing trend that has been building over the past 15-20 years. This trend reflects the desire of parents to remove pain, loss, and fatigue from their children’s lives. Parents are doing things such as ensuring their children don’t feel disappointment. And, if they do, parents move quickly to take the pain of disappointment away. If their child doesn’t win at something or if the parents feel that the effort their child has to make is too much for them, they come to their aid with comfort and point out other factors that made it “so hard’ or them. Or the parents fault circumstances or other people for their not winning or succeeding.

Another troubling trend is that of parents actually purchasing teacher manuals for the courses their children are taking so they can have access to the course quizzes and tests. In an elementary school not long ago a parent became quite rude with a teacher who discovered that this parent’s student had simply memorized the answers to the questions from the teacher’s test key that the parent purchased. In the parent’s mind, it was the teacher’s responsibility to simply grade the test based on the answers given. The parent could not be reasoned with regarding the comprehension deficit that his actions were creating in his child.

Yes, this is disturbing. And it is crippling kids in a way that will only show itself when they have to rise up and face the reality of what life is about and what it takes to succeed in any endeavor. Jesus said “In this world you will have trouble.” Notice that He did not say “might have”. Trouble is coming. The only way for future adults to be prepared for it is to learn how to deal with trouble (i.e failure, disappointment) properly at a young age. That means accepting the fact that they failed a test because they did not study enough. Or that they didn’t make a team or cast of a play because they lacked a skill or talent (or they simply did not push themselves hard enough). This does not diminish them. It is an opportunity for them to examine themselves to see where and how they can improve; to pursue those endeavors that complement their God-given skills and talents.

So…partner with your child. Drill them. Work hard with them. Stretch them. But don’t coddle them. If they fall short (and I promise you, they will), come beside them and use that as an opportunity for them to learn how they can improve. Learning and teachability are more effective when the person is open to it. And, if they are taught right, these will come when children embrace the loss or failure for what it is: a teachable moment.

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