I spent the weekend in Minnesota with my younger daughter for a hockey tournament. It was a tough weekend. Her team didn't score a goal in five games, and the other teams scored a lot. My daughter was pretty discouraged.
When we got in the car to go home, I asked my daughter what her coach had to say when they came to the bench after a shift. She told me, "She said 'good job.' I don't know why she said that. If you let in a goal on your shift, you didn't do a good job. You failed at your job. That's not a 'good job.'"
My first reaction was to disagree with my daughter, but as I thought about what she said, I decided that she actually knew what she was talking about. You see, our society has leaned heavily toward praising our children for even the smallest accomplishments. We've worked hard to take the sting out of losing to the point where some leagues don't keep score. We hand out participation trophies and certificates just for showing up.
But, you know what? The kids know the truth. They know whether they played well or not. Whether there's a scoreboard at the field or not, every child on the field knows what the score is.
Our society has tried so hard to protect our kids from failure that they don't know how to deal with it. We've made failure OK. We've dressed it up by taking away the score-keeping and telling kids they've done a good job even when they haven't. And that's not fair to our kids.
You see, our kids need to fail. They need to not always have someone pat them on the back. They need to learn to fall down, dust themselves off, get back up and try again. They don't need to be showered with false praise.
As parents, we need to let our kids fail. We need to use failure as a teaching tool. We need to let failures teach our kids grit and determination. Because it's only when we fail that we learn to approach situations differently. It's only when we fail that we learn to appreciate success. It's only when we fail that we recognize our need to be forgiven.
If we never allow our kids to fail. If we praise them even in the midst of an abysmal failure, we lead our kids to think they can do no wrong. We allow them to believe that even their failures are praiseworthy. And that attitude can keep them from recognizing their need for God.
If our kids believe they can do no wrong, then what do they need God for? If we create a society in which children are not allowed to fail, we create children who don't understand the concept of sin. We raise children who believe they can do everything on their own.
So, let your kids fail. Let them learn the feeling of discouragement that comes with failure. Teach them to evaluate their failures and figure out what they can do differently the next time. Because it is in their failures that our kids will recognize their need for an ever-loving, ever-forgiving and ever-present God.