Has your child ever told you they want to do something, whether it be climbing a tree, becoming a famous singer, or joining a sports team? And did you feel that little twinge in your stomach? You know, that little twinge that says, “Oh my goodness, they can’t do that, they’ll never make it. Even if they try, they’ll just fail and wind up hurt, so I’m not going to let them try. I’m going to say they’re cute and then ignore it and hopefully it will go away.” Yes, that twinge.
It’s totally normal to want to shield your child from failure. You don’t want them to go through all that work just to end up heartbroken when they don’t make it. But what if for one second you got a little crazy and let them try? What would actually happen?
I was at a PT conference last year and one of the speakers was telling a story about a kid who was dead set on playing football in the NFL. So she asked him, “What do you need to do to become a football player?” He told her he had to run fast. So she looked up the running stats of NFL players, took him out to the track, and recorded his time. She then showed him the difference between the two and asked, “Are you willing to work hard at running to improve your time like an NFL player?” His answer was no.
The amazing thing was, he wasn’t devastated. He wasn’t heartbroken. He simply came to the realization of what his dream took, and decided it wasn’t worth it. Now there was room for a new dream and new plans, and he worked with his PT on skills he could use for a job in his community.
But what if she hadn’t let him try? What if she had just told him, “No, you can’t do that. You’re not fast enough.” First of all, he may have resented her for underestimating him, and second, he may have become even more dead set on his dream of being an NFL player, something that given about 10 min of a chance at trying, he decided he didn’t want to do.
It’s okay to try to go for your dreams. And it’s even okay to try and fail. Failing can be an amazing thing if we let it be. It is a wonderful tool that helps all of us develop resilience, learn new lessons, and grow as human beings. Is it really fair to take away that amazing experience?
What if we let kids with disabilities experience trying and failing? What if instead of preventing failures, we embraced failures? What if we encouraged learning from those failures and using them to improve our life?
You have the power to be an amazing force in your child’s life, helping them learn and experience all of life’s failures and lessons. Let them do it.