What is more important for our kids: performing very well or being resilient in the face of challenges?  

The two are not mutually exclusive, but I think kids who are resilient are ahead of the game.  Recently my daughter Clara, who is struggling with Latin, inspired me with her determination.

Clara is in sixth grade and takes some classes at a local classical school, including a Latin class.  Her Latin teacher recently sent me this email note:

“Last week in class Clara translated on the board and was asked some questions to correct something.  She took that correction well and was brave in front of her peers.  I encouraged her to not let that stop her, she stood her ground, persevered and got what she needed in order to make the correction.  She is not afraid of making mistakes and going back to correct it.  Thank you for raising such a great example of how we all need to respond to mistakes—learning from them!”

We have repeatedly emphasized to our kids that failure is a good thing because it is what happens when you take risks and try something new.

We want our kids to be unafraid to fail.  Successful people are people who have failed a lot before learning to do a thing well.

I could imagine Clara in front of her class of twenty-some kids, standing alone at the white board.  As she stumbled and got her translations wrong, she had a choice. She could give up, or she could persist.

She chose to be brave and keep trying, despite her failures.  This makes me so proud of her.

Shortly after reading this note from Clara’s teacher, I attended a fundraiser.  I sat next to a mother who complained about her first grader not being placed in a “high ability” classroom at our local public school.  This woman said, “The schools just don’t understand how smart my kid is.  I have learned that you have to fight for your kids.”

This woman had fought to get her oldest son into a high ability class. “Now I am fighting to have my second son put in that class as well.  I am getting close,” she said.  “I have almost persuaded the school to let my other son into that class too.”

Aside from the fact that I’m not sure a kid will be more successful in a high ability class, as opposed to a non-high ability class—and in fact, a bright kid might just feel demoralized and even stupid in a class full of gifted kids when he could otherwise feel confident and smart in a regular class—I just felt bad for this lady.  I also felt bad for her kids.

Yes, you can fight for your kids. But then they will never learn how to fight for themselves.

They will never be able to stand up, alone, in front of a room full of their peers and work bravely through their mistakes.

Clara is not in a high ability classroom, but I am excited to see all the things she will accomplish in her life because she is not afraid to try new things, fail in front of others, learn from her mistakes, and move on.

Clara also bravely gave a mini-piano concert in the lobby of her great-grandmother’s assisted-living home.

I would rather have her be brave in the face of challenges, and to make her own way in this world, than to have the best grades.

She is a top student, in my book.


Photo Credit: iStock. Following image courtesy of author.