Thursday, March 12, 2009

Loving To Fail

"An inventor is simply a person who doesn't take his education too seriously. You see, from the time a person is six years old until he graduates from college he has to take three or four examinations a year. If he flunks once, he is out. But an inventor is almost always failing. He tries and fails maybe a thousand times. If he succeeds once then he's in. These two things are diametrically opposite. We often say that the biggest job we have is to teach a newly hired employee how to fail intelligently. We have to train him to experiment over and over and to keep on trying and failing until he learns what will work."

— Charles Kettering

This quote was in my email this morning. I really, really love it. I think it's one of the absolute best things you can teach a kid. Yes, you're going to fail. In fact, you should do it a lot. Every single day, you should keep working, and have FUN trying to figure out how to make things better and faster and more efficient. And yes, you're going to STINK at some things the first time you try. That doesn't necessarily mean you need my help. Sometimes I'm not going to help you. (and that freaks some of them right out... you don't WANT to help me? I can't do it all by myself!) Yes you can. Depending on the kid, sometimes I explain that, and sometimes I just say I'm busy or I can't right now, and if you want it done right now, you'll need to figure it out.

Working through your frustration is good for you, and it's true that flunking in school sometimes sets us up for not wanting to try. I mean, nobody likes to fail. That's something I can't really do anything about. But at home? Work it through! Help less, ask questions and LISTEN to the answers, and your kids will surprise you.

I think as parents and caregivers we all tend to get into the pattern of helping our kids too much. Sometimes it's because oh my heavens they take SO LONG TO DO THINGS. It is easier to just do it for them, and it makes less mess for us to clean up afterwards.

Sometimes it's because mamas can be control freaks. We like for things to be done our way. Our way is the best way, and that means it's the only way it should be done. I have learned so much by sitting back and watching the way that kids choose to do stuff. Lots of times it doesn't get done the way I wanted it to. That matters in some things, but in others? It doesn't. It really doesn't. And it helps kids so much if I let go of my preconceived ideas in that areas. It still gets done. And they are doing it.

Talking them through a failure is something I'm still learning how to do. It's my conditioned response to leap in with the NO NO voice sometimes and go, "That's not the way that works! Oh my goodness you're going to hurt yourself/ break that/ whatever! Do it like this! NO! LIKE THIS! never mind, here, just let me do it...." And for me, that's a huge fail on several levels. It teaches them that I will step in and do it for them and so they can (okay, I'm not finding a better phrase than "half-ass it"... usually I don't like to cuss on the blog, but that's what they do). It also doesn't help me back off and let them learn. It doesn't allow them to fail in a safe way so that they can try again next time.

I find that the older they get, if I just call their name and get their attention, I can say things like, "I think if you do it that way you might drop it. Then you'll have a mess to clean up. (because yes, they will be cleaning that mess, not me.) Can you think of another way to do it that might be better?" Everybody stays calm and the kid gets to think about it himself and do it himself.

I also think we do it to ourselves while we raise kids. I have been working at trying to get my kid to drop a binky/ sleep through the night/ potty train for so long now! It doesn't happen easily or quickly and we get frustrated. This is the invention process. You get it right once and it works! True, what worked before may not work today, but if you start feeling like you've flunked out, it's not good for anybody.

Anyway. There are some thoughts for today. :) What can you add that I haven't thought of?


shoeaddict said...

I think that you should have stuff like this (parenting tips) here all the time. ;)

Loni said...

Wow. So very good. Who needs to add more?

Can I copy this and share it, please?