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4 Reasons Why Failure Is Important for Teens and Parents

When teenagers make mistakes, parents are provided an incredible opportunity to point their child to Jesus and the truth of God’s Word.

parent of teens, failure, failure and grace

What is grace?

Grace is undeserved acceptance and love received from another. As followers of Jesus, grace is something for which we are incredibly grateful because God’s grace changed our lives: 

“For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast.”

Ephesians 2:8-9

2 Different Types of Parenting

Now switch directions for a moment and think about grace in terms of your role as a parent. Have you created a grace-filled home where your teenager feels safe to fail? Do you think your teenager would agree? In my interaction with teenagers, I have noticed two types of parents when it comes to failure and grace.

1. The helicopter parent: This parent hovers over their teen closely, monitoring and controlling every aspect of their life. Teenagers are rarely given the opportunity to experience failure and can’t learn how to cope with such life experiences.

2. The parent who expects perfection: These unrealistic expectations cause teens to believe their parents’ love and acceptance are based on their grades, athletics, hobbies, dating, college choice and career. Teenagers under such parenting are stressed and afraid of losing their parents’ love and acceptance.

Most of these parents deeply love their children and have good intentions, but they don’t recognize the destructive nature of their parenting styles. It is a fact of life that teenagers will make mistakes. We have a chance to play a crucial role when they do. Here are a few reasons it is important for us to create an environment where teenagers feel safe to fail.

1. Failure provides opportunities to speak into your child's life.

For 18 years, a precious human being grows and develops under your roof—that means 18 years of teachable moments where you can guide and direct your child and love them through life’s difficult circumstances. However, here are some tough truths.

If your teen is not afforded the space to fail, then you will miss valuable opportunities to show them how to cope with failure. They will not seek advice or wisdom from you when they do inevitably mess up. By creating space for your teenager to make mistakes and by developing a home where they feel safe doing so, you are providing opportunities to teach your teen valuable life lessons.

2. Failure displays our need for a savior.

We need Jesus and when teenagers make mistakes, parents are provided an incredible opportunity to point their child to Jesus and the truth of God’s Word. In these tough life moments, teenagers need to hear that everyone makes mistakes. Despite what they see on television and social media, no one is perfect. 

Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “There is certainly no righteous man on the earth who does good and never sins.” Everyone is in need of a Savior. Parents can take advantage of these teachable moments by reminding their teen why Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave…to save us, all of us, from our sins.

3. Failure provides opportunities to show God's grace.

When a teenager fails, it provides parents an opportunity to display grace. It is important for a teenager to know they are loved and accepted by their parents despite their mistakes. By showing a teenager unconditional love, parents illustrate God’s grace to their child. What an amazing opportunity!

As John 13:34-35 says, “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

4. Failure teaches humility.

Just glancing at social media or listening to popular music makes it apparent that the world is doing a poor job of teaching our young people humility. Failure can prove to be a positively humbling experience. Parents can guide their teenagers through such experiences by teaching them to value humility the way God does and by showing them the negative repercussions of a prideful spirit.

“When pride comes, disgrace follows, but with humility comes wisdom” (Prov. 11:2).

How to Create a Fail-Safe Environment for Teens

It’s one thing to know why it’s important to create a safe place for your teen to fail. It’s another thing to know how. Here are four ways you can get started at home.

1. Allow your child the opportunity to give you grace.

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.”

James 5:16a

This may come as a surprise, but your teen already knows you are not perfect. They live with you and watch your daily behavior. However, they need to see that you know you are not perfect. When you fail in front of your children, talk to them about it. Discuss how you could have handled the situation better. Tell them about how thankful you are for God’s grace in those moments of your life.

When your failure involves your teen, apologize to them and ask for their forgiveness. By doing so, you are providing an opportunity for your child to learn how to give grace. Through such vulnerable and real conversations, you are fostering a safe environment to discuss failures. If you are open and honest about your mistakes, then your teenager is more likely to do the same.

2. Talk about God's ability to redeem failure for His glory.

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.”

2 Corinthians 12:9

Do not wait until your teen fails to talk about God’s redeeming love. Scripture is full of historical accounts of individuals who sinned, turned back to God, and were then used in mighty ways to fulfill God’s purposes. Share these powerful passages of Scripture as your child grows up. Then when your child experiences failure, remind them of what Scripture teaches. Failure and mistakes do not define who they are, nor do they limit God’s ability to use them. In fact, our failures display Christ more clearly to others. For when Christ works through us, people are able to recognize we would not have been able to accomplish such things on our own.

3. Do not keep a record of wrongs.

"[Love] does not keep a record of wrongs.”

1 Corinthians 13:5b

Do not hold your teen’s mistakes over their head. Parents who constantly bring up their child’s past failures slowly build a wall in the relationship. Teenagers do not feel safe discussing failure with parents who use their mistakes as ammunition during times of anger or stress.

4. Set grace-filled goals and expectations.

Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men.”

Colossians 3:23

It is important for parents to set grace-filled goals and expectations for teens. As followers of Jesus, we should strive to work hard and to the best of our ability, but it is crucial to show teenagers how that is vastly different from perfection.

As a parent, your ability to provide a safe place for your teen to fail and to extend them grace will greatly impact their development into life as an adult and as a follower of Christ. So go ahead and tell your teen you recognize they will not get it right 100 percent of the time, but when they do fail you will still be there for them. What relief your teenager will feel!

Article courtesy of Parenting Teens magazine.

Continue Reading: 4 Parenting Secrets that Will Get Your Teen to Open Up

Christian Burkhalter has ministered to teenagers and parents in various capacities over the past 12 years, including as an Event Coordinator for Student Life in Birmingham, Ala., and a youth pastor’s wife in Pensacola, Fla. Christin and her husband, Thad, moved to the Chicago suburbs in 2014, where Thad serves as Worship Pastor at The Chapel in Mundelein, Ill.