When I was a child, one of my absolute favourite toys was the Post Office set. I found it so exciting, all those stamps and envelopes and air mail stickers… I’ve been doing the grown-up version of playing with a new Post Office set over the last few weeks, developing my website. This week it’s been really hard. I’ve progressed from the sticking stamps on envelopes stage and I’m on to the equivalent of dealing with passports and foreign currency (into the world of search engine optimisation since you ask). I have been experiencing failure a lot, there is so much I don’t understand.
I had one really bad day of trying and trying to do just two things, and ultimately failing at both. I felt depressed, and went to bed at the end of the day feeling like I’d never get it. I didn’t really know where to go for help, or even what questions to ask.
And then, the next day, I got up, went back to my lap-top and by 11 o’clock I had resolved both issues. I think that what had seemed like a complete waste of time the day before had in fact been the groundwork of understanding. After distracting myself with some Euro 2012 football, followed by a good night’s sleep, my brain simply picked up on all it had stored the day before and went into action with some building blocks in place.
This is what I think happens with children, and it’s why I think allowing them to ‘fail’ is so important. It’s never really failure is it? We can empathise with their frustration, but we really don’t need to worry and get upset along with them, or try to put it right somehow. Not if we trust that their brains sometimes need this groundwork of ‘failure’ to set them up for eventual success. And when problems don’t seem to be resolved on the surface, you can be sure that there is furious activity going on amongst all those neurons and transmitters underneath.
I’m very proud that I solved these two problems all by myself, I’m glad nobody helped me. I achieved something I never thought I was capable of, and I think I’ve got a smarter brain now. Giving children the space to do things by themselves, fail, and try again, helps their brains grow too. And I’m sure, judging by my own inflated sense of brilliance right now, that this process is the greatest builder of self-esteem too.