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Why You Should Let Your Child Fail

Why You Should Let Your Child Fail

When a Long Island baseball mom made headlines recently for stalking, threatening, and harassing her son's baseball coach, all because the kid failed to make the team's travel squad, many Circle of Moms members, including Megan A., were reminded how important it is to teach your children how to both win and lose.

"When they are toddlers it's nice to build up their confidence and sense of pride," she says. "But what about when they are older? Is it okay to let them win all the time, and going one step further, what about in schools or in organized sports when ‘everyone is a winner?'" She wonders at what age moms should start teaching their kids that it's okay to lose. "Not everyone wins all the time...the point is to try hard."

A number of Circle of Moms members agree, and note that a child's response to failure is influenced by the reactions of the people around him, most significantly, his parents. While we often celebrate and reward their wins, we should also spend time on failures, because they offer important lessons. As Amy T. explains, learning to deal with failure during childhood helps kids become resilient adults. "I hate this new 'everyone is a winner' attitude schools use towards sports and other activities, she says, adding that, "We all lose at some point in our lives."


What Kids Get Out Of Losing

Emma N. takes it a step further, asserting that kids can get a lot of losing. She's one of several Circle of Moms members who say that when parents teach their kids to embrace failure as a normal part of life, they're not afraid to try new pursuits and take risks. She bemoans a shift in adults' attitudes towards winning and losing in the world of kids' sports. "Playing used to be about learning good sportsmanship and the best man winning because they put the most effort in and worked the hardest."

"The idea that a child must always win or else they will wither away in a pool of low self esteem is ridiculous," says Erin H., and Lindsay H, agrees: "I feel that everything in life is a competition and that they need to learn very early on that focus, determination and hard work is what will make them it on the ball field, in school, or later on in life in the workforce. It's no fun losing, but instead of throwing a fit, they need to use that as fuel to pick themselves up and try harder the next time."

Teaching by Example

Moms (and dads) also shouldn't forget that they are teaching by example, says Arnie T. who points specifically to how the Long Island soccer mom's extreme behavior set a horrible example for her son. "It seems nowadays we simply hear more about rude, overbearing sports parents than we did in years past. And the coaches are just as bad though, they are always push, push, pushing and striving for more. Which is all well but kids can only take so much. Aren't sports supposed to be fun for them as well as a learning experience?"

In then end, if parents don't let their children learn the lessons of failure, they and everyone else around them are creating a generation of whiners, suggest some Circle of Moms. "I can't stand it when children are spoiled and don't known how to lose," says Laura G. 

Are you okay with letting your kids fail?

Image Source: Jason O'Hallaran via Flickr/Creative Commons

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

Join The Conversation
CoMMember1363010768929 CoMMember1363010768929 6 years
Failure is considered a good word in our house.... because it at least means they were brave enough to try. I encourage my kids to try their best, but if they want to be better, they have to work harder. However, I stop short of saying "that's okay, you don't have to win". The truth is that I want them to win. I want them to want to want to win. My 6 year old recently voiced concerns that she doesn't think she is that good at gymnastics because so and so can do stuff better than her. I agreed that yes, "so and so" is really good, but I told her if she wants to get better, she will have to work harder, practice more. I think she gets it. She knows that she won't be the best at everything. But I try to encourage her that IF she she as the desire, and IF she she wants to work hard enough, she could possibly be the best. I do make clear that my expectation is for her to at least try and then I let her make the decision as to whether or not she is willing to work hard enough. We talk about what the word Bravery means all the time. And I whole heartedly believe in the Eleanor Roosevelt statement "The Future Belongs to those who BELIEVE in the beauty of their dreams". I actually have it framed and hanging in my family room. I am not trying to push winning on my kids (although my daughter does have a t-shirt that says "it's okay to be the best" lol), I am mostly trying to push the concepts of inspiration, bravery, failure (as a good thing), and blood/sweat/tears for achievement. I don't think I was inspired as a kid. I want mine to see the possibilities, be brave enough to try, accept failure with grace and come back fighting harder.
MarshaMais MarshaMais 6 years
Wow...this article makes me not feel so bad. My youngest daughter has a hard time paying attention to finish her math homework. Part of it was her meds wearing off too soon. But mostly because she hates math. She got honor roll all this year and got a medal at the end, but one day I got frustrated and said, "let her not finish. Then she'll see what happens when she goofs around with her homework, in the form of a bad grade and no honor roll." I want her to get good grades and feel proud of herself, but there are times when she needs to learn consequences for not doing her work properly and in a timely fashion without me or her dad lording over her.
I agree 100% to this article. Now days the younger generation doesnt understand that it is ok to fail. Sometimes my generation dont know either both winning and failing are a way of life.
RebeccaLucas RebeccaLucas 6 years
I agree. We all want our kids to be good at stuff and when they are, that's great and we should praise them but, as the article demonstrates, a child who is never allowed to lose is likely to turn out to be a brat and expect their own way all the time. Losing is a part of life. Not everyone is good at everything and there will always be someone else who is better at something. I have always played games with my kids where someone wins. I don't "let" them win (although sometimes I'll make it easier for them to do so!) because when they do win, it's because they have deserved it. I always make a point of telling my children that as long as they have worked to the best of their abilities in whatever they do then I don't expect any more. If that means losing things then so be it. It teaches them that we can't always get everything in life and, hopefully, teaches them to try harder in the future. As long as children are not criticised for losing but reassured and encouraged to keep going then it is a good thing sometimes.
samanthanotenboomcurtis samanthanotenboomcurtis 6 years
as a chubby kid i never won a got so bad that at one point i gave up middle of the race when the rest of the kids were over the finish and i still had half to do.. my dad came over gave me a little talk about no matter how hard/disappointing things are not to give up. he then ran the end of the race with me from the sidelines. i got a massive applause from all the mums and dads just for finishing when i wanted to give up...i finished in tears but more from humiliation. when i got home my mum said because i had tried my very best and didnt give up i could do a treasure hunt (she had already planned this cus she knew i would never win a race) at the end i found a book on a tape. that should have been one of my worst memories but turned into one of my best. i will also do the same for my kids if they have the same problem. i dont care if im rewarding them for losing. sometime when you only lose you have to win once in a while.
CandaceLouie CandaceLouie 6 years
i think it is a good idea for children to learn how to fail and not be poor sports, or poor winners, and it will show them that they can do more to get more experience on different emotions, but if they lose they shouldnt be put down by others but encouraged to keep practicing so they can be that good, just like home work, the more you read up on stuff the better you will get, but learn not to be such poor sports like when the canucks hockey team lost and the entire city of vancouver went out into a riot and damaged and stole whatever they saw, when i saw that and heard about it i couldnt believe it because they definately werent setting a good example to the next generation about losing
TonyaDavis96484 TonyaDavis96484 6 years
Finally, some one said it, it's okay to lose. Everyone can't be number "ONE"! I've taught my kid this early on and he understood it and has applied it to his life as a child with autism. Unfortunately though this is the concept that is being taught in school now and kids are constantly being rewarded for doing the things they should be expected to do. We are raising a generation of "I always win" and "reward me for doing the right thing" kids. Kids today lack coping skills. Thanks again for putting this out there!
MarcieRamirez MarcieRamirez 6 years
Great article. I have one of those kids who naturally does well at everything. He is a senior green belt in taekwondo, and stopped practicing because he was getting too sure of himself. He seemed to think that he could walk into his tournament without practicing and win. I took him to his tournament knowing full well that he wouldn't even place because of his lack of discipline. I would do it again, too. He learned a lot that day. He was disappointed, but he got back to practicing and passed his belt test the next week (his coach wasn't going to let him test because he hadn't been practicing).
CoMMember13608892169649 CoMMember13608892169649 6 years
I say don't teach them that "we're all winners" but teach them to be a good or lose. Also, teaching them that it's OK to lose, that the point of playing is to have fun, yes, try to win..but winning isn't everything. As long as you have fun playing then that's all that matters. Lets get back to letting these kids be kids and play for the love of the game (no matter the game) and quit pushing them to win all the time.
PamelaSmith57032 PamelaSmith57032 6 years
I think the point here is that there has to be winners and losers at such a young age in a competitive sport. You used to go in the back yard and enjoy playing outside with your friends period....who won didn't really matter. It was about friendship, fun, and just playing the game. Do you remember who won hide and seek, tag, kick the can. No you just moved on to who counts while we hide. What happened to friendship, comradery, pals. Now it's go to an organized sport, that has exact rules with no variations, and beat someone at something. They're missing out on good clean fun.They don't give trophies for catching lighting bugs do they?
JenniferFriday18158 JenniferFriday18158 6 years
I believe that we are to teach our children every part of life and prepare them for the'real world". If we let them live in this winning attitude then how will they handle heartache or disappoint in the future. We are raising our future govermental officals, leaders of the community, and many other important roles. The kids have to be taught how to handle any and all situations.
Rachel3790 Rachel3790 6 years
I see nothing wrong with giving a small trophy for being on the team but SOME teach or person has to be the winner. It makes the game worth playing. What it builds is children who either play well and continue to play and are mean to everyone else or kids who start to play and when they don't do well quit. If they do happen to stick it out they are pushed soooo hard to win they feel horrible or when they don't win are told they are a failure. It's very frustrating to watch.
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