Last week, my daughter bombed a math test. Flunked. Failed. In a big and mighty way. So big, in fact, that the teacher called me into the classroom to show me the test.
Later, when Riley and I were talking about it, she began to tear up.
“Are you saying that I made a bad grade?” she asked as her lower lip quivered.
I hesitated for a beat and then said, “Yes, Baby Girl, you made a bad grade.”
A lot of parents would be horrified with me. I can hear them saying, “What?! You don’t use the term bad when talking to a child!” I could hear them complain that I was going to scar my child or permanently damage her self esteem.
In our society today, we have become so concerned with the emotions of our children that we will lie, cheat and steal to keep them from feeling badly. The theory goes that if we can organize a world where they feel safe and secure and loved and comfortable all the time, then surely they will become confident adults.
The problem with this approach is that it simply doesn’t work. An obese child who is told that she is fine just the way she is will still grow up with be an adult with chronic health problems. A child whose bullying behaviour is overlooked because he is having problems at home that are not his fault will not learn how to care for those around him. A child who thinks that a failed grade is actually good will never learn how to succeed.
And so I let my daughter feel the full weight of failure.
And then I gave her the tools to succeed.
“You see, Riley, a bad grade tells us two things: 1) You don’t understand the material and/or 2) You did not practice enough before the test. However, both of these things are fixable. We can make sure you learn the material and give you lots of practice so that when you will not make this grade again.”
The rest of the weekend, we worked hard. It was obvious that Riley was missing the foundational pieces to the concepts and so we made sure she got them. Then we built on the foundation until she was grasping math which was much more difficult than the concepts on the test.
She got it. She grew confident. She asked to practice so she could show us what she had learned. And she learned how to turn failure into success, a life lesson that is exponentially more important than a math grade.
Many of the couples I meet struggle even admitting that there is failure in their relationship. They dance around the subject, trying to project an image that is perfect. They hope that I don’t ask any questions that might poke that delicate exterior and expose it for what it truly is.
But, just like Riley, if we do not take an honest appraisal of our work and if we do not acknowledge places where we fail, we will never be able to move past failure to success. Admitting you have a problem, as they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, is the first step to a new life. The brilliance of taking this first step is that you can make changes, fix the problems and move to a place of health and true happiness.
What do you have in your relationship that is not working? What is failing?
Once you have taken an inventory, begin to make changes. Need some help? You can book your coaching session with me today.