Raising A Brave Girl? Let Her Fail (Part 4)

(This is the 4th part of the Raising a Brave Girl? Blog series. Check out the Intro: Are You Brave Enough To Raise a Brave Girl?Part 1: Let her FearPart 2: Let her Feel, and Part 3: Let her save

Everyone is saying how lax and lazy this millennial generation is. I disagree. The nature of progress is to make life easier for coming generations.

Here is what I worry about: Overparenting

I don’t worry that life in today’s world is too easy for our kids, but that we make life too easy for them. By overparenting, we deny our kids a realistic sense of the effort it takes to succeed. When parents overwork, children don’t learn how to reach difficult goals on their own. It was easy… dad solved it for me!

The number of college students with anxiety and depression is higher than ever. Young adults are venturing into the world without the skills to conquer it. We’ve gone from a generation of emotionally absent parents to the extremes of helicopter parenting.

Whereas children were once necessary for the survival of their parents (think child labor), it seems that they have now become their parents’ reason to live. In trying not to become who our own parents were, we jumped to the other extreme.

Overparenting is the new standard. Parents who don’t over-function get the evil eye on the playground. “How can she allow her child to climb that high? That’s not safe!” But little Susie has been up there plenty times. Susie’s mom taught her how to climb safely.

New parents are overwhelmed – with good reason! Because parenting is hard. And we all want to be good perfect parents. Our insecurity makes us overcompensate. We turn into the parent that promises their child, “I will never let you fall.”  

Umm… that’s a huge promise. And, she NEEDS to fall.

Kids learn best by trial and error

Adults learn this way too, but miss out because we are afraid to make mistakes. Kids, however, don’t think the whole thing through. They are constantly figuring out how the world works. Little Liza didn’t want to clog the toilet. She just wanted to know what happened if she dumped the whole roll in! (And now she knows…)

Because we are so concerned with being the perfect parent, we try to prevent our kids from failing at anything. We think their failure is a reflection of our parenting. We also think that their failure at the present predicts how they will do in the future. Don’t get me wrong, guiding and protecting our children is important. But if we are always jumping in to help before they can “mess up”… then how will they learn at all?

Imagine choosing a science class for your child. In the first, your child gets to sit in a safe, comfy chair and listen to lectures about what happens when different elements are combined in a lab. The other class takes place IN THE LAB. Your child gets a hands-on experience, creating all kinds of chemical reactions. Which one would you choose for her? The latter, right?

I know that a science experiment gone wrong in the classroom does not compare to watching your daughter cry out of regret for a bad choice. Or getting hurt in some way. It’s terrifying as a parent! But the principle stands.

She needs to make her own mistakes

Your daughter’s consequences will be her best teachers. Allow her to listen to them without pulling the “I told you so” card. When your daughter experiences a bad outcome that could have been avoided if she only listened to you, you didn’t win. She did. Because she learned something. And your “I told you so teaches her that she can’t trust herself.

I also have a problem with the “Go ahead but don’t come back crying” approach. It’s better to be there for her when she fails than not allowing her to fail at all.

When she inevitably fails, hold off the you should have’s, or your impulse to solve the problem for her. Instead of jumping in with suggestions, allow her to speak and process. How did that feel to her? Respond with empathy. Put yourself in her shoes. Allow her to feel the bad feelings that resulted from her decisions. Then, questions like, “what do you want to do now?” are helpful in moving forward.

Lastly, praise her effort. Praising effort is almost always a good thing. “Yes, I saw you fall, but man you were up there for a long time. That was hard!” By praising effort, you teach her that the final outcome is only half the goal. Reaching goals is hard, and it takes hard work. Just because it didn’t work out as expected doesn’t mean she failed.

A Brave Girl makes mistakes. She knows that failing is part of learning. Can’t learn to ride a bike without losing balance – a lot. When she falls, she gets back up. And because she is not afraid to fail, she succeeds at things no one else dared to try.

So instead of I don’t know, this is too hard for you, try telling her This might be hard, but go ahead and try. She might surprise you! And if it turns out that it really WAS too hard? That’s ok too! Your little super girl doesn’t need to be the best at everything. Nobody is!


Continue with Part 5 of this blog series: Raising a Brave Girl? Let her Choose. (available 9/9/17)

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Are you enjoying the Raising A Brave Girl series? I’d love to hear from you. Comment below!


2017-10-01T18:12:06-04:00By |

About the Author:

Mark Loewen is a psychotherapist and parent coach. His daughter inspired Brave Like A Girl, and his first kids book, "What Does A Princess Really Look Like?", which was followed the empowering coloring book "The True Colors of a Princess."

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