Why Your Kids Need To See You Learn and Fail

Why Your Kids Need To See You Learn and Fail
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I’ve played guitar since I was ten years old.

What this means is I pick the guitar up and I know what I’m doing. You generally won’t see me struggling through chord changes or rhythms or things of that nature. I’ve also been given a keen ear which helps me to hear a song on the radio and figure out how to play it on the guitar pretty quickly.

Why Your Kids Need to See You Learn and Fail

Awesome, right?

Not always.

See, I’ve got two sons. My youngest wanted to learn to play guitar. If he didn’t understand something, he just plowed through it until he got it. He works until his fingers hurt. He is not easily discouraged. He says Oh well, takes a break and tries again the next day.

Why Your Kids Need to See you Learn And Fail

 But my oldest is a completely different animal. If he can’t do it perfectly within a couple minutes, he gets frustrated and gives up. He doesn’t want people to think he can’t do it. He’ll sit on the sidelines and not take a chance, simply because he doesn’t want to fail.

Why Your Kids Need to See You Learn and Fail

 We all have different personalities when it comes to how we view failure, and our willingness to try something we might not succeed at. I am discovering it is really important that my children see me fail at things. I want my kids to know I’m human. That I’m far from perfect. That I’m still learning, too.

Your kids need to see you learning.

We are the adults. And because of that, we forget sometimes that our children haven’t seen the work it took us to master an instrument or tear down a motor or bake a cake or complete algebra. Sometimes all they see is that we can do it and they can’t. And depending on a child’s personality, not seeing the work part of it can make them believe it wasn’t there. As if we’re a natural at everything…and they aren’t.

This can be especially hard for homeschooled kids. If you’re not in a room of thirty other kids with varying abilities, and the only person you can compare yourself to is mom, dad, and your siblings, you might not get the chance to see people struggle as much through math, music, writing, etc. And depending on a child’s personality, that might morph into I’m the only person struggling. I’m the only person who doesn’t get this.

Why Your Kids Need to See You Learn and Fail

I want my kids to know that I’m still learning every single day, and that I still ask questions—a ton of them. I want my kids to know that I, an adult, don’t always have the answers and when I need to know something, I go looking for the answer.

I want my kids to live a life where learning is natural in the sense that they see everyone does it. Everyday. No one ever gets to a point where they have nothing left to learn. When you are brought up learning in an environment where questions and not knowing and seeking answers are normal and modeled by the adults in your life, I think you’re going to be pretty darn unstoppable.

Your kids need to see you fail.

It’s good for your kids to see that you tried something and it didn’t work because it helps them realize that not everyone can do everything. It also teaches them how to handle failure. It’s good for them to know that failure is not a dirty word.

Moving to our farm has shown the kids that both their father and I are, in the most honest sense of the phrase, learning as we go. Google and YouTube are our friends. We ask people. We try. We experiment. Sometimes we completely screw up. Sometimes we totally fail. And we try again.

Why Your Kids Need To See You Learn and Fail

Help your kids to know that it’s important to keep learning and that it’s okay to fail while doing so by modeling that exact thing in your home. Failure actually is an option, and it’s an absolutely okay side effect from taking the chance at learning something new.

Why Your Kids Need to See You Learn and Fail

Tired of the sugarcoated version of homeschooling? Read my book The Homeschool Highway: How to Navigate Your Way Without Getting Carsick.

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15 thoughts on “Why Your Kids Need To See You Learn and Fail”

  • Absolutely!

    I have had to explain to my kids on different occasions that I can do it because I've had years of practice.

    And did you get the barrel rolling? LOL

    (I'll be mentioning your farmish blog in my next blog post on Friday. Is that OK? We made the flop bread!)

  • My oldest has a very similar personality. He doesn't do things until he can- which unfortunately doesn't work with all things. My second is more of a "sure, I'll give it a try" type of guy. The next ones follow are somewhere in between. We are working on this here- the whole not giving up, you have to work hard to be good at ____ and all that. My dad sent me an article the other day- title was something along the lines of What if the secret to success is failure? It was all about character. I have been trying to let them see Paul and I try and fail more as well. Plus it helps me to try new things and all that….

  • Awesomeness. You spoke right to my heart, my dear. Maybe Boo's reluctance to try new things may be not only because it's "new" but also because since I can already do it, she should be able to do it right away, perfectly.

    This sheds so much light into some things in this house. Thanks!

  • so very true, you explained this well. My 2 older girls are talented in art, my youngest dd would pout and give up drawing because she couldn't do anything as well as they- we had to keep explaining that they were not always so talented, but that they draw everyday and have improved over years. We also made her take an art class, even though she didn't want to put in the effort. she has improved and feels better about her abilities now.

  • Such a great reminder. My oldest is like your son that gets discouraged and wants to give up. I need to be a good example at how to deal with that frustration. Another thing….say sorry to your kids! For the same reason.

    • Yes to the say sorry. A good example of how to deal with the frustration? I’ll think on that for you. Because his frustration mostly just, well…frustrates me. 😉

  • Amy–this is right on the money. My oldest struggles with perfectionism (learned at the hip of her mother-ahem) and I have to make a real effort to be real to her in my own issues with failure. Kids need us to be real and share the truth with them. Lots of trying and lots of failing in learning something!

  • My oldest is the same way! She wouldn’t let us take the training wheels off her bike until she was almost 8 years old– and by let I mean my husband removed them and refused to put them back on despite much pleading 😉

  • My secret reason for homeschooling was because then I had even more excuse for continuing to learn myself. In later years, I decided to learn to knit. My kids laughed because they had never seen me be so bad at anything. It became critical that I not give up. Eventually my clawed hands straightened out and I produced a lopsided dish rag. Today I am finishing my first sweater. Still learning. Still failing. Still trying. Yes, your kids definitely need to see this!!

  • I think it might be an oldest kid thing! My older brother was like that and my oldest kid is like that. He hates reading out loud because he doesn’t always get it right the first time, especially if he just looks at the first letter and guesses. We have a mantra in our house “it’s ok to get things wrong, it’s not ok to not try”. I hope it helps him see that trying is what really counts when you’re learning.

    He also saw me fail A LOT with reading words for the first time when he decided he was interested in dinosaurs. It took me like 4 times to pronounce ankylosaur properly. That was an interesting 6 months!

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