Learning to Fail

Posted on February 22, 2012 by Phil

My curse is that I’m good at everything. Before I go any farther, I want to be very clear. That last statement couldn’t be further from the truth. The problem is that my kids do see it that way. They are young enough to still believe the lie that Mommy and Daddy are good at almost everything. Well, not even just good at it all, but perhaps the best. At this stage in their lives, it’s not completely a bad thing. We are their heroes! And there is a part of this false truth that we secretly like as parents. But we also know that they have to know the whole truth- that failure is a real & important part of life. It was last week that my wife, Amy, and I were reminded at how important it is for them to know this truth.

Piper, our 5 year old, told us that she didn’t want to go to choir practice at church. She loved choir; but something changed. She broke into tears, desperate to get out of going. As we asked her why, her answer was almost funny. “They play games where people get out…. I didn’t win the game we played last week.” Wow, was she in for a rude awakening.

Had I really taught my oldest that she was the best at everything? Had I taught her that she will always win first place? Was I setting her up to be crushed by real life?

I struggle with this because I want her to know that I love her like she is the best. No matter what, I’ll be her biggest fan. This will always be my message to my daughters. But that is not all I had said.  I had led her astray.

She actually believed that she needed to win everything and be the best at everything. The more I thought about it, the more I saw that I’m not the only one feeding this lie. I know some schools that fail to teach kids to fail. There are even camps that have done away with competition. “Everyone’s a winner” is a dangerous game. The biggest reason? It’s not reality.

As much as it hurts, in real life, our children will fail at things. Just like we did and still do. I want to be a parent that teaches my children that it’s ok to fail and that there is a proper way to fail. Failing is an opportunity to learn, adapt, and move forward in an effort to succeed next time. Even if we fail again.

Here at Ridgecrest Summer Camps, we love our campers no matter what they do. If they win a game, or if they don’t win. When they don’t win, they have a safe place to grow and learn. This begins with games, but continues with social situations, with faith, and with dreams. Learning to fail is a crucial skill that we will use for the rest of our days here on earth.  We love standing beside our campers as they learn these life-long lessons.

And the more I learn about failing, the more grateful I become that my God, Jesus Christ, has already won the ultimate battle for me. I don’t have the worry about failing at life when I rest in His victory. Now that’s something I want to make sure my kids completely understand… His grace.

What are you doing to make sure your children have learned how to fail in a safe place?

Phil Berry
Assistant Director, Camp Ridgecrest for Boys
Father to Piper and Lily


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