I recently commented on a post from Science-Based Parenting on allowing our kids to “Fail,” in order to build resiliency and, believe it or not, self-esteem. The premise is that parents are focusing too much on achievement (i.e. “winning”) and less on effort, so children may be avoiding trying new things for fear of failure.
Thanks for this reminder to focus on effort, rather than end product for our children. As the mom of a special needs kid, I’ve struggled with my expectations of what my son may and may not achieve in life. At birth, we imagine the world for our children. We may even envision them fulfilling the dreams we never pursued, accepting the challenges we never could, or taking the risks we avoided. We’re so caught up in the promise of our perfect child, we may miss the fabulous everyday wonder of the baby or toddler right in front of us.
In the early years, we may worry about them missing the opportunity to achieve greatness in a particular activity, signing them up for Suzuki violin lessons or baby gymnastics classes. Never mind that they prefer the garbage man to the symphony. Never mind that the Gymboree parachute makes them scream and they can’t yet tap their rhythm sticks on the beat.
Every year is a new struggle with my son. Forget becoming President; will he ever be able to manage a transition without a battle? Forget Ambassador to Russia; will he be able to put two words together before age three, like his neurotypical peers? Forget traveling the world with a backpack and a Eurail Pass; will he be able to survive a week at sleepaway camp?
My expectations for my son have evolved over the years, and they are still high, but my life improved dramatically when I released him from fulfilling my vision of success, and began accepting him for the amazing, challenging, frustrating, funny, bright kid he was born to be.
Heidi Emberling, MA