THE BLOG

Failure Is the Best Option

10/28/2011 05:42 pm ET | Updated Dec 28, 2011

Some people need to fail. There, I have said it. Look around. There were no major earthquakes. The ground did not cave in under your or my feet as I typed and simultaneously spoke the "F" word either. In fact, life went on as it normally would. The reason that natural disasters did not abound is because failure is a normal process in human development. In essence, failure is absolutely necessary. So how has failure come to be synonymous with so much evil, grief and despair? Well, individuals have allowed themselves to be ruled by emotion. Failure, after all, is a scary thought. Therefore, people often want to avoid what they do not want to face. This is ever true for two sectors of life: parenting and educating!

Take for example, education. Since I became a teacher, I was told that failure is not an option for students. I one hundred and fifty percent disagree with this mentality. Now, let me clarify for those naysayers who are looking to stir the controversy pot. I am in no way encouraging anyone, especially a student, to fail. However, I truly believe that it is and should be a natural consequence of choice.

Specifically, if a student chooses to dismiss homework and/ or class work because it is too boring or hard; or if a student uses their circumstances as a crutch and looks for the easy way out of challenges, then they have asked to fail. Further, their request should be granted. In life, we are not given "do- overs." We do not have flexible mistake accounts. Rather, if we are lucky, a slight reprieve is given to us and we can retry a challenge. Unfortunately though, students, and parents alike are complacent in their progress and achievement. They have learned how not to be accountable for their actions. Additionally, the mentality that failure is not an option has led to a lack of risk-taking which is a breeding ground for complacency.

For many students and parents, facing a teacher whose expectations are high and who pushes kids outside of their comfort zones is uncomfortable. To that end, students and parents choose to run away and hide rather than risk failing. Educators, at the barking of arguably well-meaning parents, are "encouraged" to "help" the students succeed. If a student fails to complete a project, after having a reasonable deadline, they should receive a make-up assignment because they tried. My question is, why? Do I get to "make up" my failed proposal in the corporate world? Do I get to revive my patients after I cut the wrong valve on the operating table? No, I don't. What I get to do is learn how to move on from my failure, which is an invaluable lesson.

I get the logic. The state of education in America was in peril. Big changes were needed and some of them have been helpful. However, taking away a natural consequence of life only sets people up for more failures in the end. As educators, it is crucially important to teach life skills, as well as academics. Students need to see and learn to adapt to natural consequences. Teachers are NOT always to blame.

The failure train doesn't end with education, either. If failure isn't an option in parenting, you are in the wrong business! As parents, we need to be more open to admitting mistakes and owning our faults. Our children are models, sometimes exact replicas of what we do and show. Therefore, if failure is not an option for parents, children take this message, as well. Parents must not judge others' actions and forget to judge and own their own. Children who hear parents' following this illogical path learn that their mistakes are also someone else's fault. This "lesson" makes for rough roads in relationships and life.

Another manifestation of 'failure is not an option' in parenting is to ignore problems altogether. The result here is that small problems grow into bigger problems. For some this can be depression and for others full-on addiction. What could have been evaluated, discussed and overcome ends in life-altering complications because a problem was dismissed. Parents owe it to their kids to teach them how to cope with life, this include problems and failure.

Is the above an exhaustive list of how failure affects, and effects, the lives of parents and children? Absolutely not! The bottom line is this: When kids do not learn how to cope with failing, they learn how to escape it. Which end do we really want our children on? I will place my money on failure any day!