The Craig County Prevention Planning Team (CPPT) recently asked a profound question: “What’s one of the best ways to help our youth succeed in the future?” Their answer? “Allow them to fail now.”
Could granny’s old saying, “They’ll learn when he or she gets up off of their behind!” be true? CPPT explored these thoughts.
“Most believe that we all want the people in our lives to be happy and that we especially want this for the youth for whom we care and love. Unfortunately, sometimes this has protected our youth more than they needed to be. We can find ourselves being too involved, a concept known as ‘helicopter parenting.’ Nowadays, perhaps it should actually be known as ‘drone parenting’ as we don’t even need to be present to keep track of our kids,” one local resident said. “All we need is the latest app on our cell phone. The problem is that for youth in these types of situations, they are not getting some of the key life lessons they need in order to develop into the mature, healthy and prepared adults we are trying to help them become.”
The CPPT team is currently composed of representatives from Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare (BRBH), Craig County Public Schools, Monroe Health Center, the Health Department, the Department of Social Services, the Sheriff’s Office, Juvenile Justice, RAYSAC and other Craig County Community Leaders.
In response to this information, J.D. Carlin, Prevention Specialist in Prevention Services at the Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare, shared data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) which was conducted in Craig County Schools this year which also showed self-reported rates of youth depression and suicidal ideation increasing nationwide.
“Not only is this same effect taking place in Craig County, but it’s rising more quickly than the state, and national percentages show. More than one out of every three high school age youth in Craig County reported being depressed for two weeks or more at some point in the past 12 months,” Carlin explained.
Data from the same survey showed a sad statistic: more than one out of every eight high school age youth in Craig County reported having attempted suicide in the past year.
“While there are many factors to a person being depressed, not having needed resiliency skills or knowing how to deal with failure are certainly two potential factors,” Carlin shared. “Think about it, if we never fail when we are a youth, how will we ever learn to overcome those tough times in our lives that WILL occur when we are an adult?”
The team’s difficult question was, “If we over-protect youth and keep them from ever failing, they may not develop confidence and self-esteem that comes from learning that they can overcome tough times and get through various struggles.”
It is a proven fact that when anyone, a youth or an adult, succeeds in these types of moments, they feel more confident about themselves. “At the same time, if these experiences are not had, our youth never learn the needed coping skills that will help get through those difficult times later in life,” Carlin added.
The CCPT team also shared that if the youth are never allowed to fail, then they quickly learn that they should fear failure. And, when a situation arises where they might fail, they don’t know how to handle it. Therefore, they don’t want to risk failing, and they certainly don’t want to have to share with someone else that they failed, especially a parent or loved one.
So, what to do about this? How can an adult who loves their child sit back and let their child fail? The team’s consensus was first to recognize the difference between letting a child stub his toe and break his leg in four different places.
“Letting your child stub his toe is an acceptable way for a child to learn to pick up his toys and put them away in the future rather than cleaning up after them all the time. And while accidents do occur, nobody would claim that knowingly letting your child break his leg in four places is acceptable parenting,” Carlin said. “Be comfortable with your child stubbing their toe. As unpleasant as it can be, we’ve all been there, and it is not a long-term issue.”
Here are some other meaningful ideas and proven suggestions:
• Spend time with your child and help them identify how they are feeling
• Help them to work through these feelings, accept that it is okay to feel bad, sad or even mad, for a short period of time. Like most things in life, it will get better if we put in the necessary time and effort.
• Make sure your child is responsible for making appropriate decisions for their age. (Getting a poor grade on a test in seventh grade because he got caught up playing video games is never a good thing, but it is not going to keep someone from getting into the college of their choice when they graduate high school. And it does provide you with an excellent opportunity to have a conversation about the importance of school and grades as well as how to set priorities and manage their time.)
• Recognize their effort rather than the result. This is known as a “growth” mindset. In doing so, you allow your child to see that they can continue to improve their skills and talents as they get older. Especially given all the “perfection,” we all see on social media; it is extremely important to let them know that they are not going to be the best at everything they do…and that’s okay.
While listing all the ideas of helping your child to succeed and “successfully fail,” the team added; “Be consistent in the limits and boundaries you set for your child all while balancing the very real fact that you must give your child space to explore and develop a sense of independence.”
Any parent knows that sometimes this can be very challenging for both the parent and child.
For information or personal questions, visit the RAYSAC blog at www.raysac.org or contact J. D. Carlin, CPPT Secretary, and Prevention and Wellness Specialist with Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare at: [email protected]
“The opportunity to learn about oneself is a key part of growing up and learning how to be an adult,” the team shared. “In the end, though this process can be frustrating for all involved, it is worth it, and your child will appreciate you, the lessons you taught them, and the lessons they will teach their children in the future.”