By: Dr. Erica Wollerman
Thank you so much for checking out my third blog in this series! As I mentioned before, this blog series is definitely more personal for me so I do hope that the thoughts that I am sharing are helpful to some of you and hopefully not too terribly offensive to the others! Please feel free to check out the first part of this series here and the second part of the series here.
For my blog today, as it is Mother’s Day, I wanted to share my thoughts about something that I believe my mother (and father actually) did very well with my sister and I. My parents were involved and very loving but they did their best not to solve our problems for us too much. They genuinely would let us fail and let us fall and make lots of mistakes. I believe that my sister and I are both pretty great problem solvers as a result. We are also fiercely independent and always strive to do our best, not for others’ but because we really own our successes and failures as our own.
I believe that letting your kids fail is one of the most important things you can do as a parent. I also think it has to be one of the toughest things to do, because this topic comes up in my office All. The. Time. And I mean on a daily basis. I think that our society seems to equate parenting success with kids/teens’ success and that is a big reason why parents have such a hard time letting their kids fail. Unfortunately, what that often means is that then kids or teens do not know the value in failure… that on the other side of failure is personal growth, grit, and perseverance. Because the lesson is to keep going. Not to let failure stop you, but to push back, try harder, and eventually succeed and overcome the challenges you were facing. This is where we really learn about ourselves, how to solve problems, and how to be resilient even when life is not going our way.
Often, parents want their child’s life to go smoothly all the time. They tell me, “I just want my kid to be happy.” And what I tell them is this… well, first, I tell them this is going to sound weird coming from a therapist but, happiness is not my goal for your kid. Resilience, problem solving, success in however it looks for that child, and resourcefulness are my goals for them. I hope that they are sometimes happy too, but I know that happiness is often fleeting and that these qualities (resilience, problem solving, success in our own way, and resourcefulness) are what will get us through the rest of the time. I believe that through letting our kids fall and fail and not immediately rescuing them, we help them build these qualities. So, when it is now my kid falling and failing, I want to remember to be compassionate but not to rescue them from the problems they are fully capable of solving.
Here is an example of what that looks like:
My kid forgets his homework and calls me. I tell him, I’m so sorry that happened for you today. How are you going to solve the problem? And if he needs help, I help him come up with solutions that do not include me driving the homework to him, scanning it to him, calling his teacher, etc. Then, that night, we might talk a bit about ways to remember his homework that do not include me reminding him, setting it out for him, etc. To me, that is how you build a problem solver and that is how I let my kid fail with compassion, understanding, and full confidence that he can get back up and figure it out.
Thank you all for reading! I have more ideas for future blogs on this topic that I will be sharing as things progress and would appreciate any feedback you would like to give me!
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As always, thanks for reading and comments are always welcome regarding any issues around child, teen therapy and adult psychotherapy. If you're in search of San Diego Therapists, call Thrive Therapy Studio.
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Musings from Erica, Jennifer, Maria, Kim, Andrea, Molly, Abbey, and Ying-Ying