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How Can Parents Love Kids by Allowing Failure?

Someone getting pied

Allowing a loved one to fail is tough, but could there be some benefit to allowing them to make a few poor choices? Judah shows us how to we can do just that and reminds us that it is indeed loving.


But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

2 Cor. 12:10

It’s a hot summer afternoon at the ballpark. Perfect weather for a baseball player, but not so much for the folks in the stands. Especially the six-year-old who’s not too interested in the pace of play on the Little League field. What could be better than an ice cold can of Dr. Pepper?

His excitement was expected and made evident by the violent shaking of the can of carbonated sweetness. Mom looked on in fear as the inevitable ensued. Could she have stopped the geyser of soda? Yes. But will her child now understand the consequences involved with shaking carbonated drinks? You tell me.

Allowing a loved one to fail is tough, even in the small things. Is it better to protect them from the hurt and potential consequences? Could there be some benefit to allowing them to make a few poor choices? Will they be able to recover and grow from the failure?

Here are a few teaching opportunities in allowing our kids to make a few mistakes:

  1. Teach who we are. The fact of the matter is that we are sinners, and therefore we are imperfect (Romans 3:23). Right off the bat, we’re doomed for imperfection. Scripture goes on to say that as long as we are in the flesh (humans), we will always struggle with having sin nature (Romans 7:15-20). This truth, like any failure we encounter, can easily be masked as despairing, but only if we have unrealistic expectations about who we are as humans. When we don’t ever “see it coming”, it becomes more difficult to accept shortcomings. Ignoring a realistic understanding of our nature could delay a child’s chance to understand how failure can provide opportunity. Point them to the truth in scripture recognizing our weakness and ultimately pointing us to His strength.
  2. Model grace and forgiveness. Allowing failure is also a chance for parents to model grace and point back to the gospel, just like the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15). It would be terrible if a child never experienced grace because they were always protected from choices. Ultimately, parents need to step in when it really matters, but several choices aren’t “life or death”. Use discernment to know the times freedom of choice can be given to kids, all the while readily waiting the opportunity to graciously coach them in the shortcoming.
  3. Look at history. Sometimes we focus so much on the commands and instruction in scripture that we can forget all the real-life stories that took place. Whether it’s Moses, David, Jonah, or the many others, the Bible is full of men who made mistakes that led to growth, learning and even success. Read these stories to your kids. Know them yourself. We can learn just as much from the failures of these great men as we can from the commands and guidelines in scripture.

I always appreciate the ability to learn from my mistakes and pass on that learning to others seeking wise counsel. All of that was made possible by my parents’ choice to release control every once and a while and letting me “fall on my face”. We are loving well when we allow our kids to grow through some failure in life.  

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