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    « On Being Bald | Main | Seriously? Almost May. »

    April 17, 2008


    Bucky Four-Eyes

    Good for you and for your girls that you didn't raise them to be pussies. Well, you know how I mean that. Now they're actually prepared for the real world, better than the bubble-wrapped, over-protected little shrinking violets that so many parents are fostering all around us.


    Very well said! :)


    Yes, definitely good job on your part. You not only let them fail, you didn't put unrealistic expectations on them to overachieve. And look how well they've done.


    Oops, I shouldn't try to carry on a conversation and comment at the same time. I meant that you gave them the leeway to fail if that's what was to happen. They're lucky that you were smart enough to give them that opportunity.


    As a mother of 5 grown children I had to let them try or fail as I was always having too many balls in the air.Sometimes I'm amazed at how wonderful they have turned out,now I know. Beautfully written.


    Well Said.


    THere is a book out that touches on this subject somewhat. I have not read it but I haerd that author interviewed. The book title is Last Boy in the Woods.


    This past week I had the luck of scoring a ticket to listen to the two guys who are the "Mythbusters", a Discovery channel show. Through experiments the prove or disprove urban myths.

    One of the things they talked about was failure. They are not afraid to show their failures on TV and that it is Ok to fail. In their opinion as well, we are not allowing kids to fail and make mistakes and learn.



    I tell my kids ALL THE TIME that making mistakes is a good thing because then we learn from them.

    So many kids in this country "graduate" from high school barely able to read and do basic math. Instead of working with them and finding out their learning style and how best to present concepts to them, the administration just keeps shuffling them along and pushing them through for fear of damaging their self esteem by failing them. I understand that in a huge classroom it is very difficult to give kids the individual instruction they may need. Still, just letting them do whatever they think may be right and then telling them it is, so they will feel encouraged obviously is not working! How unfair is that to these kids!??! I don't know if things are this bad in Canada yet, since I have been gone for so long. When I grew up there, this was not the case. I failed PLENTY! LOL

    My brother moved from Canada to the USA to teach creative writing at a University for a few years. I had told him of the education system in this country and he didn't really believe me until he was teaching here. He was totally shocked at how inept most of the students were! He did not have these issues with his Canadian students. The American ones whined when he failed them because they were honestly clueless with the basics! He said that my 12 year-old-son wrote better than they all did! He could not get over how they did not have a basic understanding of proper writing or the most simple things.

    I am just using this as an example of what you are saying happens when we "baby" kids. People complain about the education system getting worse all the time and this is one of the many reasons. I don't think they had these issues 30 or 40 years ago, before they adopted this system of "encouraging" and not letting them get something wrong and then showing them the correct answer or helping them to figure it out. Or even better, watching them figure it out and just being there to guide and encourage! I am all for encouraging, that is great. Just not being false and allowing the poor kids to think all is well when they are WAY OFF. So sad and unfair to the kids who suffer:(

    I love what you did with the baseball team! How awesome!


    "By protecting them from failure, the adults had managed to rob them of the opportunity to enjoy success." Exactly. I'm trying to do my parenting gig in this way. Our civilization regresses if good people can't risk failure.

    Just this week, I gave a grad student, one of the best I've ever had, an evaluation in which I told him, "You've screwed up ROYALLY a few times." And I went on to tell him how thrilling it was for me, his mentor, to see that, because it meant that he was honest enough with me to let me know what he was really doing, and, more importantly, passionate enough about the work to go out on a limb from time to time. I told him if someone gets through the year without making big mistakes, I perceive them as not caring enough to "put out."

    Applause for your post, and your perspective. Sad that it isn't more widely held.

    K @ The Homestead

    "Brilliant Failure!!!" Name that movie.....

    Rob Paterson

    Nils - bang on and great examples - how did we lose hold of the reality of real achievement?


    Great post - another thing I don't get is the need to fill children's lives with 'activities'. My siblings started their families way after me - my youngest is now 19 and the next oldest cousin is 8 and she has after school things to do every day plus 2 on Saturday. What happened to 'doing nothing'! and a quick comment on your bald post my father always used to say 'all noble men are bald'!!


    I about bawled when you said that Erin was a music teacher. Think of how her life may have taken a different turn had she not done what she did because you would not let her quit. I have a similar story, and I'm glad my parents wouldn't let me quit. It shaped who I am today.

    Bravo, Nilbo, bravo. I was enthralled with the baseball story. You can't make that stuff up. Wonderful.


    I was raised to make decisions about what I wanted, go for it or not, but to live with my decisions. If my choice could have been permanently damaging, my parents stopped me and explained why, but in the day to day things, it was my option. They also pointed out ... nothing ventured, nothing gained, but think first! I made mistakes, but I learned to think, as well.

    I, too, played piano. I froze at recitals, so my "Carrie-Ann" excused me from further terror after the second painful attempt; however, I competed in a similar system, judged by a panel on my skill, playing prepared selections and one of their choice, always doing very well. I later learned that, while playing solo terrified me, I did well as part of a group (orchestra) and excelled at acting.

    One never knows where their strengths lie unless they try, something I attempted to pass on to my own children. Sometimes their choices bombed, sometimes they excelled. But they both knew they had the final decision, and the great majority of those were good ones. Neither swings at every pitch, nor strikes out waiting for perfection. I'm proud of them both. You understand that.


    Lyn: We had two rules growing up and they both fell under the category of "not doing anything that will permanently damage or end your life" ...
    1. Don't get pregnant before you get married.
    2. Don't drink and drive (or get in a car with someone who has been)
    Everything else was our bad decisions that we had to live with. Even, like, marrying a redhead when you know any kids you have will be destined to have the same pasty white burns-even-thinking-about-the-sun skin. For example.


    It was more "Don't get pregnant by accident". Getting married was a bonus.

    What the girls heard - ad nauseum, through their teenage years, to the point where they could (and would) mouth the words along with me - was "Don't do anything life threatening; don't do anything life altering." That was the mantra.

    I support parents who harangue their children not to have premarital sex, not to do drugs, not to drink, not to ... whatever. Your kids, your call, fill your boots. I never felt such imprecations worked on me as a teen and had no particular reason to believe they would work on my children. Instead, I took the moral issues out of the equation and focussed instead on simple, practical demands that met my concerns as a parent.

    I didn't care if my daughters had pre-marital sex. I cared if they got pregnant and altered the course of their life. "Don't get pregnant by accident," seemed (and ultimately, was) a reasonable and achievable demand - I figured my girls would meet me there, whereas if I'd said "Just don't have sex", I would be fighting biology, peer pressure, and those pesky, all-too-persuasive boys.

    That's why I roll my eyes at parents and school systems that focus efforts on demanding (and expecting) abstinence. If your goal is preventing teen pregnancies, why not focus your message on that? Even if you believe (I don't) that there is a correlation between sexual activity and "immorality", you are picking a fight that you not only cannot win - you can't even know how badly you are losing.

    Bucky Four-Eyes

    I find the whole "JUST SAY NO!" mindset to be absurd and impractical, yet so many people in this country seem bewildered to think there could be any other way to handle issues like sex and drugs.

    Can I please come be a Canadian? I'll bring my own toque.


    Very interesting!!! Thank you!

    The Kept Woman

    Great post...I'm in the middle of a neighborhood 'thing' where there is a parent who is looking for any way to displace the blame for what her child did. It's frustrating b/c as a former teacher I know that this happens all too often. My next door neighbor said that the newest thing in college grads is to have their PARENTS negotiate things for them during the job search process...uh, yeah, can you even imagine!?!?!?


    Great post. I see this lack of responsibility constantly among parents.

    It is hard to accept heartbreak sure, but it is (should be) a part of life! Last month, my daughter was in a speech meet and you could either get 1st or 2nd place, that is it. She got a second, and although she was completely torn down, she held her head up and swore she would go back next year and do it again.

    And isn't that the most important thing to teach our kids? Resiliency?

    Funny, last night my daughter had her first softball game...4 balls, 3 strikes, normal rules. It STILL took us over 2 hours!!! (and ONE hit!)


    Oh, and the two rules in my house were also "do not get pregnant before marriage" and "don't drink and drive or get in a car with someone who's been drinking".

    I succeeded with the latter, but the first one I had a *wee* trouble with.

    But hopefully my daughters will see that a)getting pregnant before you are married causes you to have to sacrifice a lot of things and b)you are also able to bounce back and still have a great life!


    "If you don't snag the bottom every now and again, you're not throwing the line deep enough in the water."

    That was my granddad's little bit of salty fisherman's wisdom, and illustrates succinctly what you articulate beautifully here.


    Every month my boyfriend and I have one of my nieces over for a weekend. J, who's 10 came last time. Because she loves sushi, we took her to Japanese and let her order whatever she wanted to try.

    Midway through dinner, my boyfriend dared her to eat a (tablespooned-size) glob of wasabi. He said he'd give her all the money in his wallet if she did. My immediate urge was to stop the transaction, but I thought about how the two of them have their own relationship. And one aspect of it is that he tries to toughen her up and she responds by showing her how tough she really is. So I stopped myself.

    Of course she asked him how much money he had in his wallet. She wanted proof of the stakes. He had $50. However much she wanted that $50, she wasn't about to burn her tongue and sinuses.

    They eventually negotiated to a smaller glob and $20. And she did it with pride. And I let her.

    Mainline Mom

    Great post, love the baseball game story! I took that piano exam...scared the crap outta me but the pride was worth it.

    As far as the just say no stuff...I understand the difficulty with that, but it's not completely in vain. It worked on me, (and certainly NOT for lack of opportunity) and so I can't help but have expectations that it can work on other kids. The goal is not just to keep kids from getting pregnant, it's to keep kids from being physically AND emotionally damaged from engaging in a level of intimacy meant for deeply committed adults. Nobody ever talks about the emotional repercussions...or the emotional benefits of waiting.

    Steve Boyko

    Fantastic post. I totally agree. Too many parents do everything but wrap their kids in bubble wrap to protect them. Kids need to be kids, to have a little space to do kid stuff. They might get a few scrapes, might get their feelings hurt now and then, but that's part of growing up.


    I found this post via a friend. I really hope that when my kid, who is currently about 5 cm long, begins to grow up, I remember this stuff. You made so much sense. I just loved it.


    Great post...and yes..children should never be suffocated. Its better they learn from their own mistakes rather than the parents'

    Kids have to have something to hold onto as they grow, and I would rather it be memories of a warm , and happy childhood, rather than void and nothingness

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