Give Your Kid the Gift of Failure
I Hate to Fail
I am a type A overachiever, and I have been since the early days of kindergarten when my mom said that I would get dressed and wait on the stairs for the bus to come two hours before its scheduled arrival time. I’m not sure where this drive came from; however, I know that it has motivated me and continues to motivate me to accomplish my goals and excel along the way.
As a type A overachiever, I don’t handle failure well, and I typically consider failure what other people would call average. However, even though I don’t handle failure well, I understand the importance of its role in our lives.
Failure is truly the greatest teacher we can have, she’s tough, she’s unforgiving, and she teaches the same lesson until we master it.
While Mr. Frugalwoods and I enjoy/attempt to survive our very first month as parents to our daughter, Babywoods, I have a delightful slate of guest posts from my friends lined up for your reading pleasure. Today, please welcome the fabulous Shannon McLay from Financially Blonde!
I Hate to Watch Failure
As a parent, I want nothing but the best for my son, and I want him to achieve everything he wants from life, but I want him to experience failure as well. Witnessing the failures of my son are more painful than my own because I want to prevent him from feeling any pain, but at the same time, I see the results of failure on him and I have to say I love it.
When my son was six years old, he saved close to $200 from the holidays and his birthday and at the time he was obsessed with LEGO. My husband and I allowed him to purchased LEGO sets with his own money literally down to the last dollar. Right before he spent his last dollar, we reminded him that he would have nothing left yet he still moved forward with the purchase.
Just a few weeks after this event, my son found another set he wanted to buy and we informed he that he had no money. At first he was shocked, but then the realization swept over him and he began to cry at this money failure. I hated seeing him cry, but I also knew that this failure was an important lesson for him about the importance of saving, spending and budgeting. I could have easily eased his pain by purchasing the new set; however, I gifted him the failure instead.
But I Love the Results
Almost four years have passed since that unfortunate day for my son and he has never dropped his savings account balance below a few hundred dollars. He even started investing at the beginning of this year. Frequently when we talk about his spending, he brings up the time when he had no money. He even brought it up on the podcast I recorded with him earlier this year.
It was a painful lesson for him to learn and it was a painful lesson for me as a parent to sit back and watch as it unfolded; however, he needed the failure in order to learn the success. As parents, we need to stop trying to protect our kids from all that could harm them, especially as it relates to money. The time for them to fail and learn is early and often. They need to experience failure on a small scale (even though it won’t feel small to them) so that the lesson is firmly ingrained by the time they’re making larger money decisions.
As much as I hated seeing the tears in my son’s eyes, I embraced the opportunity to use his failure as a teaching moment, and we need to remember that every failure comes with the opportunity to learn. We spoke a great deal afterward about how he could change his behaviors; how he was going to plan better and how he would make more money as a result of spending it all. To this day, we still use this failure as a reference point when talking about money choices.
This holiday season, I urge you not to think about what tangible gifts you can give your children but what lessons you can gift them; and my number one choice is the gift of failure. Allow your children to make money choices that will lead to failure, and then embrace the opportunity to give them the knowledge to make better choices in the future when the stakes are much higher.
Shannon is a financial planner who left a “traditional” financial services firm to start her own company, The Financial Gym, because she felt traditional financial services firms did not have the tools or resources to help people in their 20s and 30s who are starting out and trying to build assets while also managing debt. She realized that the key to long-term personal financial success is a commitment to financial fitness and making smart financial choices.
Through her blog, Financially Blonde, her book, Train Your Way To Financial Fitness, her podcast, Martinis and Your Money and The Financial Gym, Shannon is committed to making financial fitness fun, easy and accessible for everyone.