I Let My Kids Fail and I'm Not Sorry

You forgot your science project at home on the day that it’s due? Forgot your homework? Didn’t do your laundry and now you don’t have clean underwear? Didn’t take snacks for the class party or didn’t tell me about it until the day of? Tough shit kid. Do better next time.

Sounds harsh, doesn’t it? But what happens when our kids fly the coop and don’t have you there anymore picking up the pieces of their shit memory? They fail as young adults… typically in college… typically on your dime. Or at their first job. Or they make for very shitty, irresponsible roommates.

See, I used to coddle when my son was young. I used to make mad dashes on interrupted work days because he forgot his book, homework or project at home. And it didn’t just happen a few times. It happened quite a lot. And I think that was my fault. I taught him with my “drop everything and be there in a moments notice” reaction that mom would be there to pick up the dropped ball. Oops.

Worse than that, I made excuses as to why he wasn’t capable of remembering all of the things. But her totally was. So why in the Hell would he even try to do better when I’d already given him an out and a safety net? He wouldn’t and that’s where I failed him. Hey, guinea pig kid… sorry about that!

Eventually I learned, and so did he. I decided that I was raising a kid that would one day be an adult, way sooner than I had expected, and that I’d better teach my kids that actions (or lack thereof) have consequences. That’s when I learned about the beauty of natural consequence parenting. Not only is it awesome for kids, it takes some of the shit off of the parents’ shoulders! Yippee fucking skippy!

Guess what kid? I’m going to teach you to do your own laundry. Yep… all of it. And you’ll have to fold it and put it away too, otherwise it’ll be wrinkly and you’ll go to school looking like a scrub. I’ll be damned if you’re one of those entitled shitheads who doesn’t know how to operate a washing machine in your dorm or in the laundromat. You’ll have better things to learn in college.

When you forget to wash your basketball uniform or your underwear that could probably stand up on their own with sweaty stench… you’ll just have to go stag or wear dirty duds. Natural consequence, and yes you can whine and cry to me but I’m just going to smile and say “you’ll do better next time”, and you will because you’ll remember that moment that you had to run out on the basketball court pungent and freeballin’.

I’m going to take your phone call from school in a panic because you left your homework on the kitchen counter. And I’m going to tell you that I have my whole day planned and I can’t interrupt my day because you forgot something and guess what? You’ll have to have an adult conversation with your teacher about what happened and take a zero and do better next time. And you will.

I’m not going to fight you to go to bed at a decent hour every. Single. Night. I’m going to go to bed and get my rest. When you sleep through your alarm clock and have to rush out the door with unbrushed teeth and have to serve detention for one too many tardies in first period, you’ll learn that you need to get your ass to bed earlier or suffer the consequences.

If you don’t do your chores that you know that you’re supposed to do? Oh, and you want to go to a friends house for a sleepover on Saturday? Sorry! You didn’t do your part so I don’t feel compelled to spend my time and gas driving you around.

I’m not condoning laziness as a parent… only sort of. It’s been important to have conversations when things happen. Like, “man, you have detention for tardies in first period? What can you do to keep that from happening again?” Because physiologically speaking, kids don’t have fully developed brains so they may not make the connection right away or even know WHAT is causing an issue. Or they may be stubborn and want to blame YOU for not getting them out of bed, so expectations have to be clear but eventually, they’ll get it.

Obviously, there are age appropriate expectations here. I know that my kindergartener isn’t physically capable of doing her laundry... yet. And every kid is different in so many ways so it’s up to us as parents to figure out if they’re ready for certain things, but as a mom with a lot on my own plate, natural consequence parenting has been such a success and has taken so much pressure off of me to battle and argue and be at my kids’ beck and call… I’ll never stop. And my kids may not love it now, but when they have the capabilities that their peers don’t as young adults, they’ll thank me.

Failure in life is nothing but a learning tool. You’ll do better next time… or you won’t and you’ll have to deal with that. I let my kids fail and I’m not sorry.