12 years in to motherhood and last night I told one of my kids to fail the project. Just flat out, I told my child to fail the project.
I'm not sure I recommend this to everyone as I certainly have other children where I would never tell them to fail the project, but this one, this one could stand to lighten up every now and again. So I said, fail it. In fact, I tripled dog dared him to.
I have kids that naturally excel in school AND find great satisfaction in doing well. I also have the other variety that take a bit longer to connect the dots and don't get too flustered over an average grade. Both are fine in my opinion. Where I begin to get concerned is when the pressure starts mounting and they become inpatient with themselves. In the first scenario the anxiety kicks in when they aren't quite sure how to get from point A to point B. They normally naturally excel. So to struggle, even a little is completely and totally uncomfortable. They aren't used to having to pause and now that they are having to pause to figure it out, well then the panic starts to mount. The panic begins a discourse in the their mind that goes something like this, "I can't figure this out," and because this is unchartered territory, it then goes, "Since I can't figure this out, right away, I'm going to run out of time and not finish, which means I'm going to get a bad grade. If I get a bad grade, it means I'm stupid and I don't want to be stupid. I don't get bad grades, only good grades are acceptable."
It continues to spiral from there, which makes actually figuring it out 100x more difficult.
We were in this space last night and as it circled and circled, despite my efforts to course correct, I finally just said, "Great, fail it. What's actually going to happen if you fail it?"
I realize this seems counter-intuitive, but it's a worthwhile exercise and one I use on a regular basis with my kids, my spouse and myself. There is great power in getting yourself comfortable with the worst case scenario.
For this child, failing the project is worst case scenario. "Okay," I said, "So let's explore what could happen in that situation."
All of my kids are in elementary school, and this particular child has straight A's. So really, what could possibly happen if the project is failed?
We talked through the actual consequences of a failed project, not any made up panic in our head, but real and factual consequences of failing. Often times, I'll have them remove themselves from the situation and instead imagine it's their very best friend in the situation. They'll answer these next questions more honest. If (insert best friend here) failed the project would you still be friends with them? Yes. Would you think they were still smart? Yes. Would their mom and dad still love them? Yes. Would it effect them moving on to the next grade level? No. Will they have to put it on a resume and tell everyone until the end of time that they failed a project in elementary school? No. The more ridiculous the questions become they more they tend to realize worst case scenario actually isn't the end of the world.
We go through these questions and while they might start to be convinced they never quite fully are. They're convinced that it's fine for other people to fail the project, but not them. We're making progress, but we aren't there yet. So then I follow it up with one of my epic fails: Algebra II my junior year in high school. I give them all the nitty gritty details of how I full on failed the class, when I was fully capable of passing it. Algebra was, in fact, one of my stronger math areas. Instead, I just talked too much to my friends and didn't manage my time properly and it bit me in the butt. I tell them all about how I had to take a summer school class, which I aced, by the way, but had to miss summer vacations to attend. It wasn't fun, but I definitely learned a couple of valuable lessons. One of them being, it's just a high school algebra class that I've never had to report on ever again. It hasn't effected my ability to go to college or get married or raise a family or even create my own freaking awesome career.
I did also learn it's worthwhile to manage your time and not fail in the first place, but at the end of the day, it really wasn't that big of a deal. A failed project is just a failed project. It doesn't determine your worth, it doesn't determine your ability, it doesn't determine your smarts. It's just a project that didn't work out well.
Every now and again, just fail the project if you need to. If you can't afford to fail the project, walk through worst case scenario and remind yourself that even if you end up in worst case scenario, you're likely capable of figuring it out.
And now...I've got to go help them on their project, hopefully we're to the point where it can be fun again, because our best is good enough.
Hi, I'm Amy. When I'm not scouring the valley for the perfect new house, you can usually find me in the kitchen with a gaggle of kids. Chips, salsa and a Diet Coke are usually in hand.