Monday, August 11, 2014

Teacher Explains to Parents the Importance of Letting Children Fail

While growing up or raising a child, most people came across a parent or two who “helped” their child a little too much on their homework assignments. But it seems these days, with schools becoming increasingly competitive and children having larger amounts of work that some parents’ help has gone far beyond assisting them with their science fair volcano. 

It’s good that parents are highly motivated to help their children succeed but is that actually what they are doing? Sure it is getting their kids straight A’s in elementary school but how much is it benefitting them in the long run? 

Jessica Lahey, an elementary school teacher, wrote a blog on this issue, sharing a startling discovery she had made with a parent of one of her students. After finding the paper this girl had submitted was plagiarized, she called the student’s mother to share her findings and explain that the girl would be receiving a zero on the assignment. Her mother, furiously informed Ms. Lahey that she couldn’t do that because her daughter didn’t do anything wrong- that the mother in fact had written the paper. She defended herself saying her daughter had been stressed and the mother didn’t want her to get sick or overwhelmed. But in the end, the student received a zero anyway and had to re-write the paper- by herself. So  at the end of the day, the mother’s attempts to help her daughter by doing her work for her benefitted her in no way.  

It is stories like these that have raised concern and resulted in a tremendous amount of research being done into the concept known as “overparenting.” Overparenting is described as a parents’ misguided attempts to improve their child’s future and shelter them from harm or failure. It can be everything from small scale examples like not allowing their child to get their license when they turn 16 or bringing separate dishes to parties because he’s a picky eater to large scale over parenting like writing their college essay for them and not allowing them to get a job. 

Unfortunately, while it may work out in the short term, it often actually causes harm in the long run. A child who is raised to feel helpless and powerless will most likely experience tremendous anxiety and stress as they enter the real world. Bills, rent, tests, jobs, and homework will overwhelm them. Failure will crush them. The chronic anxiety and depression felt by many of our 18-22 year olds comes from being sheltered and babied for much, if not all, of their childhood.  

It is the large scale over parenting that worries researchers and educators- because it’s the kind of over parenting that can actually cause damage to a child’s education, independence, happiness, and future. 

Parents who rush to school to deliver forgotten lunches, call the teacher demanding a better grade on their child’s paper, do their work for them, or let their child stay home if they have a headache are creating children without a sense of responsibility and with a sense of entitlement.

As difficult as it can be to watch your child fail, it is critical to their long-term well being that children discover the natural consequences of their actions. Ms. Lahey isn’t suggesting that parents blindly trust teachers and don’t ever intervene, she is simply emphasizing the importance of backing off somewhat and letting the child learn on their own. Teachers don’t just teach reading and mathematics but also responsibility, manners, consequences, and teamwork that help to shape happy and successful students. She adds that her happiest and most successful students are not the ones who always get the best grades,but the ones who have earned their grades on their own through their own trial and error. 

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