To Fail or Not to Fail? THAT is the question.

As a parent, it’s a common scenario.

Your child comes home from school one day and casually mentions a project that he or she has been assigned.  It’s a big deal and will be factored into their overall grade.  They are “really looking forward to putting it together.”

ImageThe night before it’s due, you ask how it’s coming.  Suddenly that same kid (who couldn’t wait to begin) mutters that they have taken some notes.  That’s it.

The fury creeps up from inside of you as you’re grabbing them by the scruff of the neck, tossing them in the car and heading to AC Moore to buy poster board, Sharpies and rubber cement.

Grrrrr….

Okay, fellow parents, here’s a tough one.  This subject has been the topic of conversation with many of my friends lately and I have stood on my soapbox, declaring that a failed grade is a lesson worth learning and teaches kids to manage their time wisely and take responsibility.  Yet there I was, forcing my 6th grade son (after arguing with him at a noise level that would wake the dead) to write an outline, scrap his lame attempt at taking the easy route out by starting over, and FINALLY offering to help him create an A+ worthy project.

Oh, what a hypocrite I am.

Now, I will admit…I like to get things right.  While not a complete perfectionist, I will work until the 11th hour to make sure that I turn in something that’s good at the very least (as evidenced by this very story which I am writing the night before I post it).   When I have something due, I make sure that it’s in on time and if I have to work late then that’s my fault.  But why, oh WHY does my 11-year old son not have the same work ethic?

Put simply, because he is, in fact, an 11-year old boy.  There are so many times as a parent that I am baffled at their lack of responsibility when it comes to school, their toys or anything that is valuable to them.  I mean, I certainly get it, why don’t they?  If Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus then Children are from a Planet so very VERY far away, and it’s one where nothing (outside of TV watching and X-Box) ever gets accomplished.   Who would want to live like that?

I’ll admit…I didn’t exactly let my son FAIL (I may be too Type A for that, or at least right now) but I did have to let him put together a B-ish science project.  As I watched him quickly scribble the title on the poster board and spell “Animall” with two L’s (oh, my Father the newspaper Editor must have rolled over in his grave), he put his head in his hands in utter defeat.  I figured that this might be my great teaching experience for him as I explained that although he made a mistake, the big win would be in how to fix it.  He suggested that printing out the title on the computer with a black background and white letters and gluing it over the misspelled word would make it look better.  I exhaled as I realized that he had learned something:

We all make mistakes.  Instead of submitting something that isn’t perfect, figure out a great solution.  There’s a life lesson fer ya, kid.

In the end, the project is good.  I mean, it’s no A+ in my book but he admitted his shortcomings, asked for help and actually seemed to enjoy doing it.  And wonder of all wonders, as he went to bed I even got an un-prompted, “Hey Mom, thanks for helping me.”

I may not have the stomach for the failing grade yet, but at least he’s picking up a few life lessons…and so am I.  Rome wasn’t built in a day.

But just you wait for the project on Rome.  I’m just saying.

What are your thoughts?  Do you let them fail or help them get an A?  PLEASE, comment below!

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2 thoughts on “To Fail or Not to Fail? THAT is the question.

  1. Well, I too am a mother of an eleven year old. “Our” and I do mean OUR last project, was a state report on Wisconsin that was supposed to be designed to look like a parade float. Fun for the kids, right? I thought it was totally fun, I instantly started cutting up my tissue paper and twisted the little square around the end of my pencil, dipped it in a little Elmer’s glue and voila! the start of the beginning of the Ouisconsin river (the one Wisconsin was named after). And here I was, a hypocrite too because I was turning into the parent that does the project for the kid or just “guides” them in the right direction. So I had to step back, and let him to his job. But I couldn’t quite do it, I thought I was helping by suggesting materials or font styles, but what my husband told me is that I just sounded critical of his choices. But like Alex, I could see that with a little more effort it could be an A+ project. So, no I don’t let them fail either, but I should have him learn that lesson now before he reaches highschool and it goes on his PERMANENT record.

    Thanks for the stories Alex! Keep them coming.

  2. It’s SO hard to step back, isn’t it? Although not for nothing your parade float sounds AH-MAY-ZING. Maybe we should have parent art projects to let us flex our “creative muscle” so by the time the kids have one due, the mere sight of a glue stick or pair of scissors makes us cringe??

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