Whoa. There are some fighting words right there. No one wants to watch their kid fail. Am I right? I sure don’t want to see my child fail, so what is that title all about?

When my oldest was entering high school, I received some advice about making sure my student knew the information. That it was ok if he didn’t catch it the first time around. We could always go back and relearn the material in order for him to be successful. I thought this was great advice. Isn’t that what education is? Teaching children to understand the material and be successful?

To some extent I think this is still good advice for some students, the elementary ones. In the early years, it is ok to make sure they grasp the information before you move on to the next topic. Little brains mature at different rates.

Somewhere around 7th or 8th grade the dynamic changes. I have found that it become less about the developing brain and more about the rebellious brain. If your child has some learning disabilities, go ahead and stop reading. I am talking to the parents of children that have “normal” (I am using that term loosely. What teenagre is normal? seriously.) children.

I am sure that you have found yourself grading material that you have gone over and over with your child and they are still not getting the answers right. I used to think it was me. Was I not teaching it properly? What was I missing? Why was my child not getting it? It must be my fault. “We will just do it again,” I told myself. I don’t want him to be a failure. hahaha!

Do you know what I finally figured out? It wasn’t me. It was THEM.


I know. It was a shocker for me too.

What do you do when you have provided every tool for your high school student, and they still do not do well?

You let them fail.

At some point reality is going to hit them in the face. You can’t hold them up their whole lives. What do you think they are going to have to do when they get to the real world? They can’t keeping repeating over and over again until they get it right. A college professor doesn’t back up their lectures to let your kid try again. The state isn’t going to change the licensing test, so your kid doesn’t fail it.

For your high school child, at least 80% of the learning needs to be done by them. The time for hand holding is over. Oh, you need to be available to teach or facilitate the material, but the learning needs to come from their own guts. Don’t be fooled when they try to redirect the blame. For example, does your child say, “Well, you didn’t teach that part right.” Or how about, “The book didn’t say that.” (That is my favorite. When the book is wrong.) Mine have. It used to hurt. It doesn’t hurt anymore. I know what I taught. I know that they have a multitude of resources. I am available for assistance every day as they do their assignment. If they fail, it is their fault.

Let them fail. Failure hurts. Failure causes you to change direction. When a child fails a test, they recognize that something is wrong. Maybe they didn’t study hard enough. Maybe they should have corrected their daily work. Maybe they should have paid better attention while you were teaching the lesson. It could be a hundred different things. It really is up to them to figure out why they failed.

Failure can be a good thing. How will your child ever learn their own learning style if you make it impossible for them to fail?

I have a personal story about myself. When I was in high school, I did fairly well. My friend, however, did very well. She was a smart cookie and didn’t need to put in a lot of study time to do well. For some reason I thought I was as cool as she was. Until my first A/P test which I failed. I was devastated. For the next chapter, I tried something new. I outlined the entire chapter and studied every night. I aced the test. I think I may have even scored over 100%. If I hadn’t failed that first test, I know I wouldn’t have put in the effort to study for the next one. I also figured out how I study best. Just so you know, I had to learn the lesson all over again in college. Yay, me.

So don’t get all upset if your high schooler fails. Let them. If you know they are going to fail their test the next day, say nothing. It is painful. I know.

Now, if your high school kid doesn’t care that he is failing, you have a different problem on your hands. That is one that you will have to talk through with your teen.

High school can be challenging, but make sure that you aren’t the only one doing all the work!