Growing Successful Children

When we think of our children growing into happy and thriving adults, we immediately think of all the positive, uplifting, and fun experiences that we have provided or will provide that pave the way for their success. We rarely think about the role that failure plays. Just like adults, children learn more from their failures than they do from their successes. The hard part for us who care about children is to sit back and allow them to work through adversity. We have a natural inclination to move in and “make it all better.”

I watched a powerful interview with basketball great Dwyane Wade regarding his book released this past week entitled, Father First. He had very little of what we believe children need to become successful, yet he is as successful in life as he is in basketball. Many have asked how.

Of course, none of us have a silver bullet or the magic answer; but Paul Tough, a writer for Time magazine, has written a book that you might find interesting entitled, How Children Succeed. I was reading one of his online articles and felt that what he wrote was worth sharing:

Experiencing failure and adversity, researchers have found, is a critical part of building character. Recent research by a team of psychologists led by Mark Seery of the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, found that adults who had experienced little or no adversity growing up were actually less happy and confident than those who had experienced a few significant setbacks in childhood. Overcoming those obstacles, the researchers hypothesized, “could teach effective coping skills, help engage social support networks, create a sense of mastery over past adversity, [and] foster beliefs in the ability to cope successfully in the future.”

By contrast, when we protect our children from every possible adversity — when we call their teachers to get an extension on a paper; when we intervene in the sandbox to make sure everyone is sharing their toys; when we urge them to choose only those subjects they’re good at — we are denying them those same character-building experiences. As the psychologists Madeline Levine and Dan Kindlon have written, that can lead to difficulties in adolescence and young adulthood, when overprotected young people finally confront real problems on their own and don’t know how to overcome them.

In the classroom and outside of it, American parents need to encourage children to take chances, to challenge themselves, to risk failure. Paradoxically enough, giving our kids room to fail may be one of the best ways we can help them succeed.

You can read the complete article at

So love your children, protect them from bad things, and nurture them … but don’t expect perfection. Give them a chance to fail, to work through the process of failure, and to understand what went wrong so that they are equipped to handle the issue next time.

Forgive yourself for honest mistakes. If you make a mistake with your child, own it. Talk to her about it at her age level.  It is okay for her to see that you are human. In an age-appropriate way, share what you learned and how your failure taught you a valuable lesson. Next time she fails or has a fear of failing, she might turn to you for help if you have been transparent with her. It is the relationship that matters. Sometimes failure can build a strong bond that success could never build.

Remember that this journey of parenting is about being real, honest, and equipping your child with the skills that he will need in life. It isn’t about allowing him to live in a fairy-tale world where one day the fairy tale ends and life begins. You must equip him one skill at a time—each skill builds on the next. Be real and accept success and failure. Learn from both, but most of all show unconditional love through both.

Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.

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