The best present for kids this holiday: failure!

The best present your child can receive this holiday season is opportunity: to fail, to cooperate, and to slow down and do nothing. Forget the latest fads in clothes, toys, and technology. What every child needs are more opportunities for growth, grit, creativity, innovation, and daydreaming.

If you are not prepared to be wrong and make mistakes, you will never create anything original. Ken Robinson

Allowing your children to get frustrated, make mistakes, fail, and to pick themselves up and keep going until they succeed is the best way to develop grit, one of the greatest predictors of success in college and beyond. Kids need to experience and overcome times of hardship, challenge, deprivation, and hunger in order to prove to themselves that they can do it. They will also learn how to handle the normal ups and downs of life, and to cultivate  self-efficacy and resilience. The following quote describes this process well.

When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That is what this storm is all about. Haruki Murakami

 Opportunities for cooperation would also be high on my list of gifts for children. Research has described many benefits of cooperative learning, including higher academic achievement and productivity, more caring and supportive relationships, greater social competence and self-esteem, and students who are more engaged in their learning. These days we seem to overvalue competition, perfection, and being the best to the detriment of our children’s long-term mental health and success.

“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” – Carl Jung

 The final present to give kids this year is the chance for slowing down and for down time. When kids have a place where they feel private and can be by themselves engaged in activities they choose, that is when they are most likely to experience flow. Peter Gray’s research confirmed that it is during free play, i.e. self-directed play and exploration, that children realize their optimum abilities to learn, grow, and develop naturally and positively. Down time also allows for daydreaming, and studies have shown that people who report more frequent daydreaming score higher on intellectual and creative abilities. Research also shows us that our most creative thinking tends to come during times when we are slowed down and in reverie. Another gift from contemplative time is the ability for innovation and original thinking, a critical skill in today’s world.

So, this holiday season, avoid malls and online shopping and instead offer your children opportunities that will encourage personal growth, grit, creativity, and autonomous play.


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