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seazen_'s avatar

When your child fails at something, or fails to live up to expectations, do you feel as if it were you?

Asked by seazen_ (4801points) April 14th, 2011

I suppose there is a diffence between the very young and young adults – but it depends mostly on the parent: what goes through your mind when your child fails at something?

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12 Answers

ucme's avatar

Oh absolutely I do, but then it’s the same when they succeed. I live their lives vicariously, it’s in the blood see.

Bellatrix's avatar

They are my children and if they fail or don’t live up to their own expectations, I feel their pain and vulnerability too. I always want them to achieve the goals they set themselves and sometimes things don’t work out.

I TRY not to see it as “my failure” though. I probably do spend some time wondering if I could have helped them avoid it but really, my children are all young adults now and have responsibility for their own actions so I TRY not to allow myself to think that way. I think it is actually a little selfish of me if I do go down that track. What happens in their life is about them not me.

Of course I’m human so I do have hopes for them and I feel sad when their hopes don’t come to fruition. I want everything for them they could possibly hope for and I see in them all the brilliance and potential they may not see in themselves.

BarnacleBill's avatar

I encourage them to set their own goals, and to do the necessary work to make something possible. If they do all they could have done, and it didn’t work out, there’s often still a win of some sort to be salvaged out of the situation—practice with interviewing, an up-to-date resume, better understanding of a process, following through, their heart really wasn’t in what they were doing, too much reliance on luck.

I feel like the things that they did while on my watch I’m part of the accomplishment or failure, because my job as a parent was to teach them how to put in effort and work through failures. Now that they are on their own, my role is to be supportive and encourage them to try different things.

Judi's avatar

I had to learn the hard way that I won’t take blame for their failures or credit for their successes.

Cruiser's avatar

At the heart of the issue…I see failure as learning. Learning about failure, experiencing failure, feeling failure is one of the best teachers in life. As a parent my role in these experiences is a delicate one. Depending on the nature of the “failure” will dictate my role. Many of these experiences are best left alone to let the child sort through those moments as I am not always going to be around to assist or comfort them.

Other times when I observe that the failure is a teachable moment where I can step in to help my son better understand the hows, the whys of what may have gone wrong and how to better handle the failure and maybe even have done a better job where it would have been a success.

The hardest part is witnessing these failures in the making and resisting the temptation to step in which would prevent a valuable lesson from occurring and of course there situations where you just have to intervene. GQ

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Never.I actually feel it’s a good thing for them to learn. How to fail and say ‘so what?’ and move on. That’s what I teach them.

wundayatta's avatar

Sort of, but not so much.

Like if a child fails (mine are 11 and 14), then I kind of feel like my wife and I must have not done something well enough. It’s not so much their fault as our fault. If they succeed, it’s on them. I take the blame, but not the credit, which is typical for me in my life, but appropriate, I believe, for kids.

There’s another reason why I don’t feel like they are me and that is that they are already so different in their interests, I don’t see a connection between me and them. It is so clear they are different.

My daughter, for example, wants to ace high school so she can get into a good college. I never suggested this was important. I suggested that college was important, but I assumed she would do well enough to get in somewhere.

My wife was very dedicated during her learning career. She worked very hard and did very well. I rarely worked hard and I did pretty well. That was kind of what I expected from my kids, so when my daughter announced her goal of straight A’s through high school and demonstrated she was willing to do the work necessary, I almost tried to talk her out of it.

There’s more to life than studying, especially if it’s studying for grades being given by a school that doesn’t know shit about education. They call it a magnet school and it’s the best school in town, but it’s methods were developed back in the fifties. Maybe the thirties. Honestly, I don’t think it’s teaching her much and I am very concerned that she might get stifled due to boredom. But we talk about it all the time, and she doesn’t want to change. She knows we wanted to save money for college instead of paying for a private high school. I think she thinks she can stick it out. I sure hope it gets better.

Anyway, she is making choices I would never make, so clearly she is very different from me and it’s hard for me to blame myself for this. I have discussed it with her at length, but it is her choice. I know a lot of parents don’t let their adolescents make their own choices, but we have been treating them as capable thinkers since grade school, so I see no reason to stop now.

My son is younger, but his interests and methods are also quite different from mine, I think. Unless I don’t know myself as well as I think I do. Every thing he gets interested in, he dives into completely and spends all his time doing it. He’s been into gymnastics and drawing and piano and rocks and keys and cellphones (when he was a toddler), and bicycling, and now he’s back to electronics—in particular, tablets. If he were a tv channel, it would be all tablets all the time.

Have I wandered off track here? I think I told these stories to demonstrate that in most ways, they are their own people, and I don’t take their failures (if there are any) as mine. It’s more like if they need help because they aren’t doing so well at something, we figure out how to help them. I guess we don’t even believe in failure. It’s just living and learning. I have no expectations that they will do this or that at any particular time. I just expect them to work hard at whatever it is they are interested in, and to learn the general skills necessary to get along well in the world.

My son has test taking problems. He’s the best in his class at almost anything, but he can’t do well on a test to save his life. He’s a leader in his class, but if you go by standardized tests, he’s a dolt. They are going to make accommodations for the tests because he’s learning disabled, according to the psychologists. What kind of world is this? They all say he’s brilliant. Oh, and he’s learning disabled. WTF????

In my mind he’s just himself and I think he’s wonderful and thinks about a lot of deep stuff and has all kinds of curiosities and he’s very sweet, and the girls love him (in fifth grade no less) although he is not interested in the relationship scene, thank you very much. I’m proud of him.

I don’t believe in failure. Or success, for that matter. It’s caused me a lot of problems in my life—I mean, really messed me up. I don’t want to visit that on my kids. I don’t want them ranking themselves until they absolutely have to. Of course, they pay no attention to that, but at least I can tell them that they can not fail in my eyes and that I’m not bullshitting. This idea is a way of life, and I think it makes for a happier life. So, @seazen_, my children don’t fail. They can’t. They can only be themselves and the more they are themselves, the happier I am.

cak's avatar

Mixed. My son is the focus of this answer (also the cute guy in the picture.) This year has been a struggle for him. He’s also a candidate to be held back, due to an undiscovered learning disability and his recent diagnosis. Both contributed to the problem. My son can’t read and remember, but can be told and remember. This can be difficult in a regular classroom setting. I feel responsible that I didn’t push harder to find this answer, earlier this year. Evidently, though, I did. It’s the system and I took it to the limits. We will begin testing over the summer. Basically, he has to fail before they will help him. It’s not a school policy, it’s a county policy and one that saves them a butt load of money. If a parent doesn’t push, the problem goes away. Believe me, I rarely give up.

Now my son is facing having to repeat a year. We are also looking into different schools. Along with testing. My son has Asperger’s and Adhd. Life isn’t black and white for him. On good days, I’m lucky if it’s more than two colors. He spent this past year struggling and yes, I look at it a partly me. I am the one that agreed to keep him at this school and not try a different one. I felt it in my gut, but didn’t run with the idea. He begged to stay, because of him comfort level. (big with Asperger’s – comfort, returning to the same schedule)

His teacher’s are wonderful. Hell, my child is, too. Everyone wants to help, but the county tied their hands. Even when we offered to pay, it’s not part of the process. He will be mainstreamed, next year. It looks like he’s need to test differently and will be learning math, in a different manner. (more Montessori style)

The hardest part. “Mommy. What will my friends think?” After I suck all the tears back, because I know he’s scared, I remind him that they weren’t his friends in the first place, if they can’t be his friend again.

I feel responsible that it too this damn long to find out what is going on. I’m angry and hurt. I’m feel horrible that I let him down. Funny thing, he tells me that I didn’t. I just know it’s inside of me.

wundayatta's avatar

Oh, @cak. Please give yourself a break. How much time did you spend dealing with the medical system this past year? And the years before that? I know you expect total perfection from yourself, and you are very very good, but really, perfection?

He will be ok. You’re on the case now. Life is, hopefully, long enough to let him take a few extra years to get schooling. We live in a system that puts great pressure on us to do certain things at certain times. Need I remind you how different people can be and that that is not a bad thing? Your son has you on the case now. It’s no help to beat yourself up for being a few months late.

I am also quite sure that he has a lot of his mother in him. You have provided an example that glows like the Las Vegas Strip. If you refuse to not get where you want to go, you’ll get there. I don’t think there’s a single person who could tell you any different.

Blondesjon's avatar


I only feel that way about other parents when their children fail.

YARNLADY's avatar

Not exactly, but I wish there was some way I could help them deal with their pain.

blueiiznh's avatar

I do not feel as if it was me. Their challeneges are their challenges. It is for them to feel the reward and them to feel the failure. I certainly am there to help for the failure and share the joy in the reward.
But it is for them to learn from that failure and know that it is ok to fail. It is not the end of the world, but a time to think and learn and put something in place so they don’t fail in the same way.
Failure and risks and reward have to be experienced by the child. They are also the one that needs to reason out the failure and the plan. Sometimes they actually have to feel that failure to let it sink in to be able to truly succeed.
I think a natural instict for a parent is to do all they can to help their children not to fail. The challeneg is to know how far to go in the helping phase. That varies so much with age and maturity and I know I have had to evolve as a parent as my child grows. I have to step away on certain things so she learns and takes on the responsibility. This letting go part is certainly tough for both sides.
But the child has to learn to be able to cope with the world and what comes at them. The challenege is how much and when they get exposed to certain aspects.
All in all, I certainly will feel their pain and be there to comfort or be a sounding board, but they are the ones that have to pick themselves up and shake off the dirt and move to that next level.

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