Previously, we spoke about achieving a growth mindset, or the belief that intelligence, talent, and ability are qualities we can develop with work, focus, and time. People with a growth mindset are more resilient and more successful than their fixed-mindset counterparts. This week, we are building on some of those concepts by discussing the value of failure and the idea of intrinsic motivation. Read on to find out more about this phrase and how it can help your children learn.
Should I manipulate my child’s environment to avoid all failure?
Wise parenting is not always intuitive. Many parents have a vision of their child’s perpetual success – unmarred by struggle or failed academic attempt. To make success a reality, many parents instinctively want to eliminate obstacles for their kids. As such, they pave the way so their child achieves success quickly and easily. Although motivated by good intentions, this is a bad plan. The easy path will not create resilient, hardworking, or capable adults.
The rejections and corrections in this life are opportunities for our kids to learn and grow.
In her bestseller The Gift of Failure, Jessica Lahey says, “Every time we rescue, hover, or otherwise save our children from a challenge, we send a very clear message: that we believe they are incompetent, incapable, and unworthy of our trust. Further, we teach them to be dependent on us and thereby deny them the very education in competence we are put here on this earth to hand down.”
What’s the difference between helping my child and flattening their “learning curve”?
Failure is scary but necessary. We must recognize the difference between snatching a toddler out of a busy street and enabling a teenager to avoid the consequences of a poor decision. The former saves the child; the latter hinders the child from actually learning.
We have a primal adrenaline trigger that encourages us to protect our kids. But in order to truly help them, we must channel that same adrenaline into behaviors that actually benefit the learner. Allowing your child to fail and learn might cause us some emotional pain. It can be so easy and tempting to habitually intervene; yet it is necessary for children to receive the outcomes they earn. The quality of their effort might warrant a poor grade or a placement in a less academically challenging classroom.
Receiving less than a “Gold Star”, A, or highest-class status can sting – for them and for us. But we need to be realistic, love our kids where they are, and allow them to fail and learn. Letting our kids experience the consequences of their decisions, abilities, and focus does benefit them in the end. We might need to take a step back, separate from the achievements of our kids, and allow them space to learn and grow.
Sure! There is a good time to ask your child what they learned from the situation, help them understand what they might do differently next time, and assist them in the art of self-discipline. If we parents adapt these constructive behaviors, we can style a generation that can solve its own problems. Every person faces the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. Discipline is always better in the long run.
“Children whose parents don’t allow them to fail are less engaged, less enthusiastic about their education, less motivated, and ultimately less successful than children whose parents support their autonomy,” Lahey also writes.
Intrinsic motivation: Why is it the “Holy Grail of Parenting”?
We can help students recover their intellectual curiosity, bravery, and resilience.
“The less we push our kids toward educational success, the more they will learn. The less we use external, or extrinsic rewards on our children, the more they will engage in their education for the sake and love of learning” says Lahey. Our children can grow into independent competent adults, but not if we derail their intrinsic motivation to learn with rewards. Eventually, these students feel controlled and manipulated (despite our intentions to the contrary). Lahey goes on to suggest that “Applying pressure in the form of control is the single most damaging thing parents and teachers can do to their children’s learning”.
All attempts to prompt your child to earn good grades – including cash, cars, privileges, and other rewards – ultimately kill their intrinsic motivation to learn. These students will inevitably find the easiest means to the end, whatever that end is – finish the page, get a passable grade, earn your approval, or get you off their back. Yikes!
Instead, allowing your student the room to try, fail, and learn invaluable lessons creates resilience and diligence. This all contributes to your child’s growth mindset. Lahey encourages parents to “let go” so their kids can succeed. The Gift of Failure is a great read! If you are pressed for time, catch a preview of Lahey’s work on YouTube.
How can Learning Ascent help?
Jennifer Chapman, President & Founder of Learning Ascent, is not only a Teacher, but a parent. Her decades of teaching children and partnering with parents continues to benefit Fox Valley families. You can be a part of the Learning Ascent Family, too!
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