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Why letting your kids fail is one of
the best things you can do for them
I walked into the kitchen to find my 5-year old using a chefs knife, cutting his apple.
"WHAT. Are you doing?!" I yelled.
"We learned it at Kindergarten!" He replied.
"WHAT!? Put that knife DOWN!"
Minutes later, I called my husband at work and asked him why our son might think he learned about using knives at Kindergarten.
We had moved to Germany when my son was at the age to attend Kindergarten. I married a German, so we moved to my husbands home town to be apart of the family business in Ulm, Germany.
Kindergarten is comparable to pre-school in America, not Kindergarten in America. It's a bit confusing, but basically, kids start actual school a year later in Europe.
Even though my son didn't speak a lick of German, I threw him into a full-blown Kindergarten where the primary language was German. Well, my husband threw him into it. I sat hesitantly by and had no choice but to let it happen.
It took pretty much all of me to not march down to that small school within walking distance, and take him home every single day. My instincts wanted to SAVE him from any discomfort he might be experiencing.
I mean, kids were talking to him in a language he didn't understand, while he was helplessly communicating English to them. Frustrated at the blank stares he would receive back, his feelings about Kindergarten were quickly becoming negative.
I thought to myself, no child should have to endure this.
Again, my instincts wanted to save him and save him fast.
But I didn't—I left him there.
I felt as though I was being a terrible mother. But then something happened.
He started to speak a little German. Then more German. Then he began to love going to Kindergarten, and EVERYONE wanted to be friends with the American boy Elliott.
Not only that, he became friends with kids from Russia, Syria, Sweden, you name it. He began to flourish, and learn about different cultures, languages, and that there are many different colors of skin than his own.
Then, one day, I walked in on him using a knife to cut his fruit. Usually, he always let me do it. But apparently that day at Kindergarten, he learned how to use a knife to cut fruit.
So, that's what his class started to do every Tuesday—bring their own whole piece of fruit, chop it up together, then enjoyed the fruits of their labor.
My little boy was becoming capable. He also learned how to sew, make things with wood, saw, build shelters, and so on.
If you want to teach your child to use a knife safely, check out CRKT Nathan's Knife Kit: Wooden Pocket Knife.
I guess Germany is where I realized a myriad of things about being a mother. Mostly, I'm not in control of my children—God is. I so wanted to protect him from everything. For him to not feel unhappy or uncomfortable; to not fail at speaking a different language.
It was devastating to wipe his tears after Kindergarten because he was SO frustrated that no one could understand him. He explained that he can't learn German because it was too hard. He felt like a failure. It was terrifying to hold him in my arms as he was begging me to move back to America.
But he persevered.
I would tell him he was brave. I would explain that I was scared to—that I also wanted to go back to America. But I always ended with this. It's okay to be uncomfortable or fail because it teaches us something. It teaches us that we need God. We need him to wipe our tears and calm our anxious hearts. We need to let Him be our everything.
We can only show our children their need for God when we allow their lives to get uncomfortable, unhappy, and a little bit hard. We can only teach our children the beauty and satisfaction of success when we let them fail.
Failure is EVERYTHING. If I learned one thing about letting my child fail, it's this. He will fail, and he needs to know that it's okay. He also needs to know that if he tries, again and again, he CAN do it.
If I had marched down to that little Kindergarten to rescue my son from what I assumed was torture, he would have never learned the lessons of enduring hardship, perseverance, and trusting in God.
He would have learned defeat.
Instead, I was able to trust God with my son through the unknown, no matter how much I wanted to take control, which resulted in a beautiful life lesson for him.
In the end, God always uses failure and discomfort to bring us to the realization that He is, and always will be, trustworthy.