Why Parents Need to Let Their Children Fail

A fellow therapist and I spoke to a group of about 50 people at the Adolescent Symposium of Texas this past February on the topic of “Failure to Launch.” It’s a term I’m hesitant to use as a stand alone because usually the first thing that comes to mind is the movie with Matthew McConaughey as a 30+ year old living in his parent’s spare bedroom. There is a kernel of truth in the movie as far as painting the picture of what not launching looks like, but there are deeper common factors that prevent a person from gaining independence and embracing the fullness of adulthood. Unfortunately, the cure isn’t just a dating relationship.

The teacher who writes this article certainly gives a good perspective of what failure to launch looks like from the vantage point of a teacher. She sees the beginnings of what’s happening when the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders aren’t allowed to fail. The article describes overparenting as being “characterized as parents’ misguided attempt to improve their child’s current and future personal and academic success.” The overparented children are simply being set up to lack the emotional resources needed to get through the inevitable failures and setbacks later in life. They are not being allowed to fail and learn from their mistakes or experience the educational benefit that consequences provide.

As clinicians, we don’t expect you to let your child fall on their face repeatedly while you watch, but we also don’t expect you to place a pillow under them every time they might appear to be tripping. Neither of these extremes will lead to what we like to think of as a fully emerged adult. Extreme levels of parental protection can actually be quite counterproductive.  But no parent will ever be perfect, so I’ll go ahead and release you from that burden. I’d encourage you to read the article, reflect upon your parenting style, and see if you are one who justifies doing your child’s school work for them. Are you overly responsive to the perceived needs of your children, or are you giving them a chance to address their own problems? It’s not only math and science that children are learning in this stage of life, but also responsibility, consequences, independence, and foresight.

If you or a loved one have a child that meets the description for “failing to launch,” please contact Innovation360. We’d love to work with them toward establishing a healthy, productive, and structured lifestyle with failures and successes that will boost their confidence in regards to what the future may hold.

Written by Danielle Fermier, LPC

Article reference from The Atlantic, by JESSICA LAHEY