I’m a big believer in the power of failure. Failure is something we all try to avoid, yet it’s unavoidable. And if we look hard enough—if we apply the right perspective—we can find the good that comes from failure.
As parents, we want to show our children strength; we don’t want them to catch us in a moment of weakness. But in doing this, we may be doing our little ones a great disservice.
Four ways our kids benefit from watching us mess up:
They see that imperfection is okay. Being imperfect is what makes us all human. It is not something to be feared but rather something to be embraced. Our imperfections make us interesting and different. We all have them. As children grow, they strive to be great at everything they do; they want to be the best athlete, musician, writer or artist. But being the best at something isn’t what life is about. It’s about living each day to the fullest despite the setbacks and letdowns and imperfections. By letting them know that all of us—adults and children alike—make mistakes, we take the pressure off of them to set their own bar so high. We let them know that not only is it okay to make mistakes, but that it’s a natural part of life.
We become more relatable to them. Kids often see us adults as beings from another planet. To them, we are those old, tall people who just don’t get it. We couldn’t possibly understand what they’re going through or how hard it is for them. And as they get older, their tendency is to shut us out from their inner struggles. But when we are open and transparent about our own faults, they can begin to see us in a more relatable light. If they can grasp the concept that we, like them, make mistakes, maybe they’ll be more willing to open up to us about their own challenges and faults.
They learn what it means to accept responsibility. ”It’s not my fault!” How many times have you heard your kids say that? For me, it’s more than I can count. Kids, by nature, are very quick to blame others. They are so afraid of making mistakes that they’d rather put it on someone else (oftentimes a sibling) to try to get out of potential punishment. Many adults even have trouble with this one. Accepting responsibility is not something that comes naturally—but it is an admirable character trait. If our kids see us make a mistake, admit fault and apologize for it, they will learn that there is honor in accepting responsibility.
They learn that mistakes can teach us life’s important lessons. I don’t enjoy making mistakes. I mean, who does? But I know I’m fallible, just like everybody else. And rather than beating myself up over it, which is my natural tendency, I push myself to look for the learning. The goal isn’t to stop making mistakes, but rather to learn from each mistake that is made. But I think this is a hard concept for our children to grasp. We can help them to internalize this notion by letting them see how we react to our own mistakes—letting them see how we turn our own negatives into positives. If they can see that success comes from failure, then they’ll be ahead of the game in life.
So mess up and let your kids see it. Be a role model for imperfection and watch your children grow into admirable, honest human adults.