Kids and Failure: How Overindulgent Parents are Destroying Our Future

by AbbyFitz

What happens if our children never know failure and criticism? Why children need to fail to become successful adults.

Failure has become a dirty word in our society. Parents rush to defend and protect their children from any hint of disappointment.

That children should experience failure and misfortune has become an all-out taboo. Parents deflect any hint of failure or calamity from their offspring in an attempt to shield them from the cruel world.

If their child failed at something, it was not because of the child's actions, there was an outside force that surely influenced their circumstances.

Parents console their children by telling them, "what happened was out of your control and it's not your fault. It's okay, it just wasn't fair."

But failure is an integral part of life. Failure brings tears, true. But failure also instills an innate desire in us to become better.

In a word, succeed.

Imagine if some of history’s greatest minds were coddled and not allowed to fail, convinced by others that their setbacks were unfair and were the result of others' actions.

What does our future hold if our children are kept from success because we're afraid to let them fail?

Falling into the "Equality Trap"

By Demanding Fairness, Parents are Discouraging Their Children From Improving

Either ill-informed or unwilling to guide their children into successful adulthood, overprotective parents choose to shield their children from any disappointments or letdowns that happen in their lives.

Whether it’s in the classroom, playground, or the child’s life in general, failure is discouraged.

When their child's peers have won academic awards and their own child has earned nothing, parents confront teachers and school administration.

Because their child didn't win anything, even though they hadn't earned it, parents believe they should still be awarded something because it's unfair otherwise.

In sports competitions, parents balk when their kids sit on the sidelines watching other children, who have practiced and worked hard to excel in the sport, earn trophies.  Now, in order to make everything fair, every child must get an award just for showing up or participating so no one is disappointed.

Anything that can be termed as being unfair is slowly being eliminated from our education system, our playgrounds, and from society.

It's not fair that some kids are picked last, so no games which require choosing sides are allowed. It's not fair that slower kids are singled out in dodgeball, so, naturally, that game has been banned on many playgrounds.

Whatever happened to parents telling their children, "it's okay. Work harder and I bet you'll get it next time?"

Life Lessons Begin in Childhood

Learning Begins at Home
Learning Begins at Home

Childhood: Training Ground for Adulthood

Overindulged Children Become Dysfunctional Adults

Parents often make excuses for their kids, and I truly believe it's done out of love.

Unfortunately, it creates lazy, irresponsible children who expect anything they do, no matter how trivial, to be met with praise.

Perhaps if their children were allowed to taste failure, they might be motivated to excel.

One excuse that is commonly used by parents, "I don't want my kids to have to go through what I did. I had it hard growing up and it just wasn't fair."

It's said with good intentions. Some adults had truly horrible childhoods. On the other hand, if the parent hadn’t had those experiences, would they be the person they are today? Would they be as successful?

Another excuse indulgent parents give is,"the world is tough and kids will experience it soon enough. There’s no need to make it hard on them now."

Well, life is tough. Training to be a good adult begins in childhood. Overindulgent parents rob their children of life skills they'll need later in life. 

Perhaps one reason why so many young adults move out, only to return back home soon after, is because they are faced with hardships and responsibilities their parents didn’t prepare them for. As a result, they don't know how to cope.

Mom and dad may think they have their children's best interest in mind when they shield them from experiencing failure and disappointment, but without failure, how will kids learn to improve?

Should Parents Allow Their Children to Fail?

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Yes, it's good for them.
Guest on 05/11/2013

Without the ability to problem solve and learn from mistakes, children will be leaving homes at 18 with zero ability to cope or live independently. There will be a rude awakening at their first professional job when they had a lifetime of always being rewarded and told they are "great!" and "super" if they didn't deserve or earn that recognition. Having a sense of undeserved entitlement will certainly impact adult relationships in a negative way.

dustytoes on 05/11/2013

Failing at something means you either try harder next time, or maybe this "thing" is not for you, and you should move on to something else.

Further Reading on Kids and the Need for Failure

Failures Shaped Our Modern World

History's Famous Inventors Were No Stranger to Failure in their Early Lives

What if the great minds in history had lived in today's society? In a world where failure is not even considered an option anyone should experience, would we have the modern comforts we all enjoy?

Thomas Edison was called stupid by his teacher and was kicked out of school after only three months.

If Edison were a child today, his parents would have had their lawyers knocking down the school board doors with a discrimination suit. Nothing less than the firing of such a teacher and public apologies from the school would have been accepted.

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As it was, Edison was home schooled by his mother.  He became one of the greatest inventors in history, all in spite of adversities he experienced in early childhood.

Inventing new things and new ideas are the direct result of trial and error. In adulthood, Edison failed many times before his inventions, many of which have shaped our modern world, became a reality.

It has been said that it took Edison 9,999 failures before he finally invented the first practical incandescent light bulb. The end result of multiple failures is what lights our world today.

Nikola Tesla was a forward thinking man born in the wrong age. After being ridiculed by his professors for his advanced ideas, he dropped out of college to pursue his dreams.

Criticism is sometimes the best motivator. Eliminating it from our lives hinders our performance.

Tesla met failure his entire life. With each failure or setback, he only worked harder to excel.

Failure lets us look around and take stock of our current state, allowing us to better ourselves.

Without his failure, we would not enjoy alternating current, radio, remote control, and the ignition coil that still starts our vehicles today.

Inventor Nikola Tesla, with His Signature
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Tesla once said, "our virtues and our failings are inseparable, like force and matter. When they separate, man is no more."

In other words, failure is as much a part of a person as success. Without failure, there can be no success.

Kids, and even adults, shouldn't shun failure and heartache. Failure is not a bad thing. If not allowed to fail and experience obstacles in life, children will never learn how to improve themselves. 

If our children are not taught that failure is an integral part of life and are denied the ability to learn from their mistakes, then we are stunting our kids' emotional growth.

By sheltering our children now, we are actually harming them in the future.

By overprotecting our children, are we robbing ourselves of the Edisons and Teslas of the future by insulating them from failure?

Reaching for The Future
Reaching for The Future


"Thomas Edison" Wikipedia
A thorough history about Thomas Edison, his life, and his inventions.

Edison Invents!
A brief synopsis of the life of Thomas Edison beginning from his birth in Milan, Ohio, until his death in Ft. Myers, Florida

A Man of Comprehensive Solutions
A brief biography of Nikola Tesla.

Failure: Wikipedia
The definition of failure. Also lists scientific failures.

Nikola Tesla: Imagination and the Man That Invented the 20th Century
A free e-book about the many adversities Tesla faced in his life. He overcame and became one of the greatest inventors of the 20th century.

Updated: 01/13/2015, AbbyFitz
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AbbyFitz on 05/05/2014

Thank you @violetteRose and @ologsinquito!

VioletteRose on 05/05/2014

What an excellent article, I love it! Every parent should read this.

ologsinquito on 05/05/2014

This is such a good message that I'm pinning it again.

AbbyFitz on 10/22/2013

Thanks for commenting!

ologsinquito on 10/22/2013

Great article. I agree with frugalrvers that narcissism is an epidemic and some of this is most likely do to overindulgent parents.

AbbyFitz on 05/11/2013

Thank you!
I know parents are well meaning, but they are forgetting that their kid isn't going to be a kid forever. 20 years from now they'll have a moocher of a kid living in the basement because they don't know how to function in the real world.

Guest on 05/11/2013

Great article!

I think a lot of today's materialistic, gotta be number one parents aren't just "protecting" their kids...they are saving their image to keep up with the Joneses. If their child isn't called up for an award, it is publicly humiliating to the PARENT. In social circles, suburbia parents compare developmental milestones a week after a child is it is a poor reflection on them if their child isn't "number one."

I do agree absolutely that parents are shielding their kids from failure as well...and that is extremely unhealthy. Narcissism is growing by leaps and bounds these days...and I think your article explains one of the reasons why.

AbbyFitz on 05/11/2013

Parents really blow my mind sometimes. I was volunteering at my sons school and we were preparing for the end of year awards ceremony. A parent came in to pick up his child and the teacher reminded the parent about the ceremony that night, making sure the child was coming.

The father asked the teacher, "we'll is he going to win anything because if he's not hes not coming. It's not fair for him to watch his friends win something and him not get anything" I was floored. And the kid wasn't small either he was like 13 so it's not like he wouldn't understand why he wasn't getting anything. Parents bug me lol

dustytoes on 05/11/2013

Great page Abby, and I totally agree that kids need to learn from failures. Kids bounce back fast from what I've seen and with guidance they can find something eventually that they excel at. How will they find the right thing for them if they never fail?
I was a substitute teacher once and the Principal met me one morning to tell me that a parent had called to complain that I had told her child (the class) that they were "wasting time". I was subbing in gym class and the kids were noisy and not lining up for attendance and I said they were wasting time fooling around when they could be getting on with play after attendance. I thought, if a parent will call about THAT, I wanted no part of that school and I never went back. This just shows how ridiculous some parents are these days.

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