It’s hard to let them fail….

Maggie Dent says that young children are wired to explore, question and discover through their senses, the wonder of life and that may be perceived as a ‘mistake’.

It’s hard to let them fail….

As parents, it is perfectly normal for us to want to protect our beloved children to keep them safe at all times. This will never change and nor should it. This is the ultimate job of all parents.

Over time, the social norms and expectations around children has changed and softened, and one of the shifts that I have seen occur is the protection of failing at all costs and this has got me worried.

We are less inclined to allow our children to explore and navigate their world without very close supervision just in case they make the wrong choices, make a mess or possibly not get the outcome they were looking for.

The wonderful author and parenting expert, Maggie Dent says that young children are wired to explore, question and discover through their senses, the wonder of life and that may be perceived as a ‘mistake’.

Learning truly happens when there is full engagement therefore something like the unravelling of toilet rolls is an opportunity for fascinating exploration that investigates many scientific theories such as gravity. I appreciate that our beautiful toddlers often enjoy these activities at the worst times possible but rather than seeing it as a mistake or failure, it’s important to recognise the learning opportunities…easier for us in a childcare setting I know.

I believe the gift of resilience is essential to overall wellbeing and it is something we need to be developing from a young age. When we protect our children from failing, even if it comes from a place of love, we are setting them up for disappointment. As they mature when they are faced with a setback, they may have great challenges in navigating their way through a difficult situation.

Maggie Dent also talks about the time she saw a shift in this mindset and the potential long-term concerns of not allowing our children to fail.

“I often pinpoint the moment that the rules to pass-the-parcel changed as being a huge turn in the wrong direction to overprotecting kids from setbacks. Suddenly, instead of having only one winner in this party game, it became the need for everyone to get a prize. This well-intentioned action, aimed at protecting kids from being disappointed, has meant many children have seldom experienced disappointment”.

The very simple lesson in this children’s game in a fun party environment, gives our children a chance to know that while disappointment sucks, it is something we can learn to navigate with experience.

There are many opportunities for children to learn resilience and it is our job as parents to try and remember this and nurture it. I think playing in natural spaces, outdoors where there is the unpredictability in nature is a great space to find many learning opportunities. The art of taking risks and recovering is not only exciting, it helps build confidence and courage which is always my focus.

So please know it is OK to let your children fail, in fact, it may be one of the most important parenting decisions you ever make.

Mel x

For further information from the parenting guru Maggie Dent, check out her ABC podcast – Parental as Anything.


Melissa Scaife, Mother of 3 children and owner of Fit Kidz Learning Centres.

All stories by: Mel