Kids Motherhood

Failing Builds Resilience

Written by Seanne Emerton

We are seeing an epidemic of kids these days whose parents have not allowed them the experience of “letting them fail.” Parents are great at rescuing, enabling, and giving their kids too much without letting kids problem solve to figure things out on their own. In essence, they aren’t allowing them to “climb.” 

Sure, we all want the best for our kids but it’s not helping them in the long run because it makes life too easy. We know as adults that we can’t win all the time.  We know we have to pick ourselves up, shake it off, and move on. How did we learn that? We learn it by “falling” – dealing with disappointment, loss, and experiences of failure.

I see young adults who can’t figure out why they aren’t happy or why they aren’t enjoying healthy, satisfying marriages. They often had the “perfect childhood” with “perfect parents”; they may be educated with good jobs, yet they feel empty inside. As we probe to figure things out, we often learn that these young adults didn’t master the emotional intelligence strengths of stress tolerance, independence, or adaptability. That’s because they frequently were rescued from their problems, keeping them from learning how to deal with normal anxiety, which builds resilience.  

Consider stress tolerance as the child’s ability to perform under pressure. In sports, it’s understood that a little anxiety increases performance but too much can overwhelm the athlete and he/she doesn’t compete to the best of their ability. The same goes for our emotional intelligence. A little stress helps us learn to cope. As we learn to cope with the “small things,” we develop the ability to cope more effectively with large problems.

Independence can be defined as the ability to be competent or the ability to do things without external support. Remember that old saying “When the going gets tough…”? Well, several of our young adults may finish that statement with “…call mom or dad.” They lack the motivation to problem-solve and become dependent on others for support, encouragement and ideas. What we want to create is a young adult who can look at a problem, recognize the work it will take, and who is willing to “climb” without needing to seek that external motivation and support. This doesn’t mean they can’t accept help from others; rather, it simply means they don’t depend on someone to fix it for them.

Adaptability is a person’s ability to be flexible; it’s their ability to adjust to different situations. Resilient people have high levels of adaptability. They can recognize barriers that life throws at them but they do not give up. They find ways to scale those “mountains.”

Our goal as parents is to raise kids who can successfully leave home someday. How best to do that? It includes such things as setting limits, letting them fail, not overindulging, not letting them think they are the center of the universe, and teaching empathy as well as social responsibility.

About the author

Seanne Emerton

Seanne is a Central Nebraska woman with deep roots. She and her husband still live on the land that has been in her family for six generations. While she loves to travel (especially to visit their grown sons and families in Denver and Boston), she loves returning to the open spaces of the Midwest. Seanne has been a marriage and family therapist for over 25 years. She loves the work and loves continually learning new ways to help strengthen relationships. She is the founder and owner of Family Resources of Greater NE, P.C. with offices in Grand Island, Kearney, York and Broken Bow.

Seanne loves working with all kinds of people including facilitating individuals, families and businesses in growing their potential by using positive psychology. She is certified in assessing and coaching Emotional Intelligence and delights in building resiliency and happiness with her clients.

Her side passion is designing and officiating personalized wedding ceremonies for couples as a Certified Life-Cycle Celebrant. She serves the Midwest area with her Celebrant work and loves the creative process of helping couples create a one-of-a-kind, memorable ceremony.