Fail on, says South Dakota dad Nolan Schroeder, proud pop of a 3-year-old adventurer. When he isn’t chasing her around, he is the Outreach Manager for Strider Bikes and also works with the Strider Education Foundation, a non-profit teaching children from all backgrounds the life-changing skill of riding a bike.
GOOF AROUND, GOOF UP, AND GROW by Nolan Shroeder
The Slinky, Silly Putty and Post-it notes.
While each entirely different from the other, they share a common bond.
The Slinky? A naval engineer’s failed attempt at making a meter designed to monitor power on naval battleships.
Silly Putty? A General Electric engineer’s attempt at creating a rubber substitute from silicon during World War II.
Post-it Notes? A more public failure, it was the result of a 3M researcher intending to make an even stronger adhesive than what currently existed.
This is only a fraction of the failures that have changed the course of history.
Twenty-seven rejections before his first book was finally published. We know that person as Dr. Seuss.
At age 22, fired from a Missouri newspaper for “not being creative enough.” Walt Disney.
Criticized for showing too much emotional investment in stories she reported on, she was fired in her young career from Baltimore’s WJZ-TV evening news program and was told she was “unfit for television news.” Oprah Winfrey.
So why highlight these failures? Because these failures are what generates success. Yet we as parents are so deliberate about sheltering our children from their own experiences with failure.
It is a typical response, and I too am guilty of it. In the battle of nature vs. nurture, I feel almost neglectful if I permit my child to experience the forces of nature when I could just as easily step in and protect them through nurture. But if we continue to choose the path of nurture, we are ultimately creating fragile children that will inevitably experience a failure that has the potential to break them.
So how is this avoided? How do we encourage risk-taking and failure in a way that produces mettle within a child, making them strong, independent and confident?
It begins with the understanding that imperfection is not just permissible, it is reality and cannot be avoided. As such, it’s our responsibility as parents to create an environment for our children where they can fail safely, and then step back and let them call the shots. A child’s innate thirst for freedom should be balanced by a parent’s concern for safety. But this concern for safety must also be balanced by the child’s thirst for freedom.
Life’s greatest teaching moments stem from the simple practice of trial and error. Some trials result in success, while many trend more toward the opposite. It is these failures that become the best teachable moments and provide the catalyst for future achievements.