This school year I plan to help my children fail.
Next week, my two kiddos head back to school.
I’m completely grateful for the summer we’ve had but, man oh man, are we ready to get back to routine and bedtimes and less…er…togetherness.
This school year I have decided that I want to help set my kids up to be more independent. Not that I don’t want them to need or want my help, but I do want them to be able to do some things on their own. Our mornings are often a nightmare. I wake up with the intention of putting my best foot forward…the intention of not yelling and shouting and losing my f*%cking mind. Things, more often than not, go to shit and I’m left feeling deflated after I drop the kids to school…beating myself up over how I could have done things better.
I think one of the reasons why our mornings go like they do is because so much of what has to happen has, for the most part, rested on my shoulders. No more, says me. This school year, my 8 and 6 year olds are going to become responsible for a few things that I have, historically, taken care of for them. No longer will I (a) lay out their clothes for them (b) make their lunch (c) pack their school bags or (d) serve up breakfast.
Do I sound like a really mean Mom?? I’ve honestly gotten a few sideways glances from my nearest and dearest when I’ve mentioned my diabolical plan.
But…here’s the thing.
I religiously listen to this amazing podcast called “The Good Life Project”, created and hosted by the brilliant Jonathan Fields. One episode was an interview with author Jessica Lahey, who wrote the book “The Gift of Failure”. I have yet to read her book (and have every intention of doing so), but the conversation motivated me to make some big changes in our household.
Lahey, a school teacher by profession, speaks about how we have, over time, taken away the some of the functions of children in the family unit. Kids used to do A LOT of stuff…and were expected, no, required to be contributing members of the household. By parents constantly “doing for” instead of “allowing to”, we have deprived our kids of a level of independence known to previous generations. Don’t we want our kids to be strong and independent? Don’t we want them to know what it feels like to do something by themselves…and feel really proud about it? Don’t we want them to fail? Oh wait…
That’s just it…as moms and dads, why on earth would we want to set our kids up to fail? Why would we want to place them in a situation or ask them to do something that we think they may not be able to do?
“In order to help children make the most of their education, parents must begin to relinquish control and focus on three goals: embracing opportunities to fail, finding ways to learn from that failure, and creating positive home-school relationships.” – Jessica Lahey, The Gift of Failure
By stepping back and relinquishing control, we can allow our children to take some risks. Yes, they may not always work out, but our job is to help them figure out why…not to do the whole thing for them.
I know my kids are going to come downstairs in some crazy outfits when I don’t pick out their clothes for them. I plan to do my best to focus on if what they have chosen is weather appropriate and practical for school. I know it will be hard because I like my kids to look put together, but I have to let that go in order for them to develop their own sense of pride in their appearance.
I know my kids are going to do a crappy job of making their breakfast and packing their own lunches. I can already imagine the state of my kitchen after they are through. However, I plan to focus on the fact that I know, from experience, that my children eat more of any meal when they have had a hand in making it.
I know my kids are going to forget to bring certain items to school sometimes. They need to learn to be responsible for their belongings – so I plan on focusing on gentle reminders instead of just packing their bags for them.
I’ve discussed all of this with my kids and they are excited about the responsibilities they will now have. They know that this will be a process and the expectation is not that they jump out of bed on the first day of school and be faced with a mountain of new tasks to complete. We’re going to work at this as a family and I’ve reassured them that their dad and I are still going to be in the background to guide and help them if they need it. But…I’ve also told them I believe they can do this. Yes, I do know that they are going to fail a few times. My hope is that in the long run, however, their sense of success will outweigh the bumps along the way.