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  • Writer's pictureKelly Neff

Freedom to Fail


I had the privilege of sharing my story with the Oakwood High School Health classes several days ago. I talked to them about the power of our thoughts and how our perspective can influence our feelings, which are very real. We talked about the dangers of acting on feelings that are based on "skewed views," and the importance of discerning the difference between mountains and molehills in disguise.

Before I left I asked them for feedback for some research I am working on. I am curious to know what fears our youth struggle with the most because if we understand that, maybe we can be better guides for them as they navigate through these difficult years of uncertainty as they approach adulthood. Their feedback was given anonymously in hopes they would feel safe in answering honestly.

The feedback so far seems to identify fear of failure as a MAJOR struggle for many, if not most of them. This is the fear that my son struggled with the most, so this is familiar and also painful territory. It is an area my husband and I tried hard to combat with little to no success. The uncertainty of his future and figuring out what he wanted to do with his life weighed heavy on him. I believe the overwhelming fear of failure is what ultimately took my son's life.

It concerns me to see how deep rooted this fear is in our youth and is the reason I feel compelled to share this with you. I wonder how many parents are even aware of the powerful grip this fear has on thier children. Personally, I had no idea how many wrestle with this and the magnitude of the weight our children carry around every day. It has been eye opening to say the least, and this is just one of many fears they shared.

As a nation we continually tell our youth their education is lacking and we need to increase the difficulty and depth of their knowledge. We continue to increase the homework load and level of knowledge, thinking this is the solution. It's crazy to see my daughter learning concepts that my older children learned later in high school and even college. It saddens me to see so many kids who dread school and have anxiety every day for fear they will not live up to the expectations we have placed on them.

It doesn't stop inside the classroom because as parents we push our kids to excel, thinking we are being good, resposible parents. At least, we tell ourselves that we only want the best for our children, right? But it doesn't stop at home either because we now have organized sports that you have to start when you are in preschool if you ever hope to play that sport in high school. The pressure to be the best at everything they do surrounds them everywhere they go.

Have we forgotten that great success doesn't come without many bumps along the way. Sometimes flat out failure is the key to learning what needs to be learned to be a great success! Let's not just give our kids the freedom to make mistakes, let's teach them that it is a healthy and necessary part of growing on the road to success. Maybe we are the ones with the "skewed views." Maybe it is us needing to change our perspective. Maybe it is us making mountains out of molehills. Maybe we just need to chill...


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