Commence eye rolling.
The color red has been put on notice. It is not welcome in schools. I thought we were supposed to be colorblind, but I guess that’s not the case.
Yes, not all colors are created equal, at least when it comes to the colors teachers choose to grade student papers with. For ages, the color of choice has been red, for it’s boldness and contrast against black or blue student writing. But a recent study is being wielded by a new wave of parents who apparently have solved every other problem with our educational system.
Parents point to the “scientific” proof that the color red needlessly stresses their kids out, and is commonly associated with warnings and being wrong. You read that right. Kids whose papers get marked up in red might feel that the teacher is calling their answers “wrong,” according to parents.
Now, if you can recover from your eyes rolling all the way back into your heads, let me continue.
If I were a parent, I’d go to the store and buy my kids’ teachers a big box of red pens right now. Here’s why.
Failure Is Not An Option…It’s Mandatory
It’s painfully obvious to me that parents who don’t like red pens have no coping skills when it comes to failure, and they are passing on this psychosis to their children. Instead of learning how to deal with failure, some parents try to insulate their kids from failure at all costs.
Contrast that to this rock star mom, who implores people to let her kids fail, for their own good.
How did we get to this point? How did we go from winning WWII to griping about teachers using red pens on our kids’ homework? I don’t know, but as a teacher, I do know a few things about kids and failure.
Fear of Failure Is a Learned Behavior
When kids are little, they don’t think about consequences or dangers. They have to be taught that some things should not be done, for the sake of safety.
But kids also don’t perceive the “danger” of failure. Kids love to try things, regardless of the outcome. Kids learn to be afraid of failure from the adults around them, and that’s usually Mom and Dad, not the teacher with her red pen. It is adults who are often petrified of failure, and this fear is projected onto children. My guess is the kids couldn’t care less what color their teacher uses.
Fear of Failure Limits Children
Parents who fear failure don’t teach their children how to have a positive attitude toward what is an inevitable fact of life (whatever color it comes in.)
Like fire, knives, dogs or household bleach, failure is something that children should be taught to consider and respect. But fearing failure is a disability that harms children throughout their adult lives. When children are taught to avoid failure at all costs, their adult lives are going to be spend taking massive detours around failure (like talking about teachers’ pens), rather than pursuing meaningful work.
Success Is More Than An Absence of Failure
I think adults have an overblown sense of failure, because they don’t know what success is.
If you are defining success as merely the absence of failure, that’s a pretty low way to live your life. Anyone can avoid failure by just having low expectations.
But if you define success as learning from your failures, suddenly the world is open to you. Failure has become a tool for learning and growth. The only real failure is not learning from your failures.
Let Your Child Be a Loser
Finally, children who are taught to avoid failure, and all of the feelings that are associated with it, never figure out how to deal with those feelings of anxiety, stress or embarrassment. They only learn that some feelings should be avoided at all costs (and if that involves a pill later in life, so be it.)
A child who is never allowed to lose never learns how to be a gracious loser. Next time you play a game with your kid, don’t just let them win.
A child who is never allowed to fall never learns how to pick himself up. Next time your kid trips and falls, let him rescue himself.
And that is a travesty. A child who is not allowed these experiences is not a whole person. They are not prepared to be functional adults.
Tell me what you think. Are the parents onto something? Or is this one more snowflake in an avalanche of babying the next generation?