Given the Ability to Fail

Apr 05, 2010


A common theme within our family conversations as of late center around the ability to fail. We, the Flingers, believe failure is not only acceptable, but completely necessary. Taking away the ability to fail creates a chasm between lessons ultimately preventing the ability to make the proper choice later.

We let our children fail.

We allow ourselves to fail.

We analyze, talk about, and come back from our failures.

Failing. Is. Ok.

It’s hard, as a mother, to allow your children to fall knowing you could’ve stopped it. It’s hard to watch them struggle when you can simply step in and complete it with them twice as fast. It’s difficult to hash out topics with your spouse knowing you’ll disagree or patiently waiting on a promise you’re skeptical will come true.

It is the same in my family. It is the same in my government. It is the same in the schools. Failing. Is. Ok.

My dad talks about how he flunked out of college. He attended Texas A&M and failed his freshman year. He went in to the Army, “played soldier”, came back and finished up his Bachelor degree. He went on to complete a MBA and a Doctorate. My dad flunked out of college and holds the highest degree you can attain. Had he never failed, he may never have pursued with such passion the education he now gives to other graduate students.



My undergraduate degree is in Exercise and Sport Science. My Dad, the one with all that insight, told me to go in to computer programming. I said no. I wanted to be a dietitian. I wanted to create workouts for people. I wanted to find my own path.

Ten years later I got a Masters in Information Technology because I failed at finding a job in Exercise Science. I failed at earning a living. I failed at having perspective. I failed at realizing what a passion I had for programming. Having that hindsight, I find myself working in a job I adore doing something I’m passionate about with people I enjoy.


It’s a strange concept, to allow failure. So many of us want to help, prevent, provide against it. As parents we cringe at our child’s decisions. We can guide them, we can shape them, we can offer our opinions, but we can not choose for them. It is their choice, it is their lesson, it is their failure.

And that is ok.

I’m trying desperately to allow small failures realizing it will guide them as they mature. Tiny ways of learning now: how it is cold without a coat, how you can’t drink from the other side of the cup, that stepping in a puddle gets your shoes wet. I’m trying to allow those tiny lessons so the bigger ones won’t be so harsh.

But sometimes I fail at allowing their failure. I am a mother. Sometimes I over-protect. I fail.

And that is ok.

P.S. Yes yes, Easter was lovely thank you. You want pictures? OKTHENFINEDAMMIT. Twist my arm.





  1. As a child who was berated for every grade that wasn’t an “A,” I’m very jealous of your family’s more accepting approach.

    Will you adopt me? wink

    By Nancy on 2010 04 05

  2. Have you been living at my house? We always tell the boys they have to try harder or practice. It’s okay if they don’t get it right the first time.

    Also that sometime they just have to learn the hard way.

    I’m totally okay with that.

    By Tricia honea on 2010 04 05

  3. Yes! My husband and I are trying to do this too. It is so hard to sit back & watch them struggle. I have to remind myself that I am not doing them any favours by clearing the path for them, removing all lives barriers will make things harder in the end.

    Thank you for reminding me that it’s ok for me to fail too!

    By Sandi on 2010 04 05

  4. Fail fast. Fail often. And make sure you’re learning the entire time…

    By Tara Anderson on 2010 04 05

  5. Thanks for a great reminder.  I think failure is often thought of as a negative because of the sometimes high emotional price-tag that comes with it - but you have to take each one and get whatever you can out of it.  Waste not, want not applies to experience, too, I guess. 

    Although, to be fair, my parents gave me full rein to fail many times and I’m living in their house again.  grin

    PS - you’ve got me beat on the hair but I totally had that outfit.

    By CitricSugar on 2010 04 05

  6. Awww. Hurray for learning from failures.

    Also, for cute kid pics. ;p

    By Al_Pal on 2010 04 05

  7. failure. is. okay.

    Until you have that kid whose failures only fuel his desire to continue failing. When breaking an arm after falling off his bike during that very dangerous stunt is, “SO COOL!”

    When getting a zero on a homework paper is an acceptable choice because, “I got to draw a picture on the backside anyway”

    When stuffing a fistful of coins into the CD player on the car results in nothing (for him - for his parents it involves spending hundreds of dollars for a new radio).

    DAMNIT what do you do when your kid isn’t LEARNING from his failures???

    Pass the Ritalin please.
    (just kidding)

    By Texan Mama on 2010 04 05

  8. Ahh, yes, moderation is key. As is Xanax. wink

    By Mrs. Flinger on 2010 04 05

  9. Which is why helicopter parenting is enabling the child and not allowing the child to learn from failure. It is also the toughest job a parent has too.

    By Oma Flinger on 2010 04 06

  10. I SUCK AT FAILING. And yet, I fail. A lot. I am a failure at failing.  Way to make me feel like a loser, Mrs. Flinger.

    (P.S. I come from a long line of Aggies… granddad, mom, and even my dad taught ROTC there for a while.  I knew the Aggie Fight Song by heart before i was 3. And yet? My degree is all orange.  HOOK EM, BABY)

    By Bejewell on 2010 04 06

  11. I’m all for failure as long as it was accompanied by trying. I’m hopeful I’m ingraining that into my kids (especially since it wasn’t ingrained into me).

    By patois on 2010 04 06

  12. Failure is hard. I’ve kind of had to parent myself so I’ve meandered through higher education, earning two associates degrees completely by accident (oopsie) in the process of weaving in and out of about four different majors. I finally decided upon nursing, which fits like a glove. The first time? I failed my pediatric clinical (aka, got a C, which is failing in nursing school) twice, so I was out of the program. I’m starting the humbling process of the second go-around. I know I’m smart, I just get bored and distracted.

    And I’m a perfectionist who was never told that failure was okay. I like this post.

    By Allie on 2010 04 08