COLUMN: Children can succeed through failure

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By Ken Begley

Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”
 — Theodore Roosevelt
I thought this was interesting.

A reporter was doing some research on what a parent could do in a child’s growing years that would help ensure their success later in life.

The reporter went to many places of learning looking for the answer. This included two prestigious grade schools. These are very expensive and competitive institutions where the rich send their children, hoping to give them every possible chance at being successful later in their lives. The heads of these two schools came up with the same surprising conclusion without ever talking it over with each other.

You want to know what they thought the answer is?

Let the child fail on his or her own.

That’s a different solution isn’t it?

Not what you would expect them to say?

Let me explain further.

They believed that parents get too involved with their children’s lives. They believed that parents can intervene too much in order to ensure that their kids succeed at everything they attempt. The result is that the schools saw many kids who had never failed at anything they attempted.

The thought was this left a big gaping hole in their development.

How can constant and unending success be a bad thing?

Because kids with parents like that never learn how to deal with failure. They don’t know how to pick themselves up and brush themselves off when life disappoints them.

Do you know who Americans really admire most?

It’s the man or woman who is just too stubborn to quit no matter how bad things can get. It’s the person who doesn’t know when he is beat. It’s the person who stands tall like a great stonewall when the storms of life hit.

We all watch people when bad times come to them. We wonder what they will do. We wonder what we would do in the same situation.

The greatest lesson that my children ever received came not from a book. It came from their grandfather, Lenny Carrico. He suffered from a great bout of cancer not too long ago. A lesser man would have given up. He would have grown tired and handed back to God the life that had been given him.

But Lenny is one of the rare breed that don’t know the meaning of the word “quit”. The result was he gave a most valuable lesson, not only to his children, but also his grandchildren. He taught them that every moment of life is precious. It is something worth fighting for no matter how the odds are stacked up against you.

I wrote a few weeks ago that my son, Will, was up for a very prestigious scholarship called the McConnell. He made it into the final round of interviews, which lasted two days. I’m disappointed to say they he didn’t get it. But I was not disappointed in how he handled the results.

We talked about it.

Will said he had done the best that he could. He didn’t feel that he could have been anymore prepared for the interviews by his instructors up at Washington County High School. He wouldn’t change any of the answers that he had given. He felt disappointed but had no regrets. The results were the will of God, and he accepted it.

I liked that.  

I felt that this failure and disappointment have made him grow. The experience will allow him to deal with all the future failures and disappointments that will come his way. It will give him the strength to pick himself up and dust himself off each time it happens. He won’t sulk or become bitter and hateful just because he didn’t get what he wanted. Instead he’ll learn to suffer the slings and blows that life will deal all of us at one time or another. He will grow stronger each time, and that is a good thing.  

Then maybe one day, when he faces something as grave as the cancer his grandfather had, he will be able to face that as well.

So I end this by thanking my father-in-law for the example that he has shown all his grandchildren.

You never know who’s watching when things go wrong. But in this case, I do know the lesson that was learned. It’s to never, never, never, never, never, never give up.

God sure doesn’t.

Goodbye, my friends.