Failure is Awesome

A little bit ago we were doing one of our group coaching calls, and one mother launched into an epic speech about how letting her daughter fail was one of the best things that could have happened to them (Yes, that may sound weird at first).

We completely agree. What she did (letting go of the micromanaging of her child, combined with letter her daughter fail) was the great catalyst that inspired her daughter into action, and now they are thriving.

How did she do it?

Take a listen:


40 thoughts on “Failure is Awesome

  1. I realized I have aspergeres about week from my last day of high school I’m a senior and I know I’m not going to graduate on time so I need to do summer classes and I’m not blaming my dad he who also has aspergers he found out the same time I did that we both have it and for all my life in its entirety my dad has micromanaged me I’m not blaming him for anything but still it sucks that I just found out now I’m seeing a shrink but I really wish I could have know why I was different and why I have poor grades

  2. This is brilliant. I used to micromanage my daughter’s life, in part because I have AS too and no one gave me the support I needed growing up and I didn’t know how to ask or explain how I was struggling. And if I did, people didn’t get why a “smart kid like me” couldn’t figure it out. (I wasn’t diagnosed until later in life). I wanted to spare her that problem.

    Well, she is in middle school for the first time this year and could not adjust to the new requirements of homework, social stuff, etc. At first I nagged her a lot, set ultimatums, and tried to intimidate her into seeing the consequences of failing, which was at that point imminent for almost every class, in part because her IEP was no longer very appropriately designed for middle school and she was struggling to meet demands that were a little over her abilities. That was met only with opposition. Her school wanted to put her in a substantially separate classroom with only 2 other kids, both boys, both older kids, both very behavioral which would have been horrible for her. She is very socially seeking and her friends are her only reason for getting up for school in the morning!

    Well, I could not help her with homework at home because all that resulted was meltdowns, and I have my own health issues and I just can’t handle 3 hours of screaming nor do I want that to constitute our relationship. So I had to let her fail. She did a little homework in after-school homework club. Eventually, just like I said, she failed most of her classes in the first semester, and she realized that it was up to her to avoid getting placed in the substantially separate class, going to another school or staying back in 7th grade. She realized these would be natural consequences of her lack of accountability for school performance. And you know what? She started to get her act together. She started to ask me for help, and tell me what she was struggling with more. She let me in, and let me teach her good work habits, and admitted she would do ANYTHING to avoid these fates!

    At that point, I did jump and start helicopter parenting her homework and school performance. I checked her school email daily to see if she’d done all her work, talked to her teachers more, and on some rare nights if she was tired, because she struggles so much with typing and visual processing of words and letters, I’d even let her dictate a paper to me while I typed it (letting her teachers know about this, like it was no different from using dictation software), just so that she would go to school confident and feeling a part of the lesson vs avoidant and spaced out because she could not follow it.

    Well her teachers are really noticing the changes! They see that she is trying hard on her own. I think the key thing I am trying to say is that not only did I let her fail, but when she was ready to succeed, I was there to help her with very intensive, focused, present support. I want her to see that I am here to help her and go to bat for her, but only if she chooses to get the help she needs.

    I did this about hygiene awhile back (stopped nagging her and getting into fights about deodorant use, until a younger, more candid child asked her if it’s normal for all sixth graders to smell bad!)

    I am trying to somehow teach her this about housework… she is 12 and does absolutely nothing around the house, but this is hard because if she “fails” at a household task, it’s me who suffers the most, she could care less. I am trying to see how to apply this principle to impress upon her the impact of poor housekeeping habits, but she has absolutely zero concern about it. Maybe she is just not developmentally ready because she is a kid and I take care of her. When she lives with roommates for the first time, maybe then she will see how important it is to not live in a pigsty and not clean up after yourself.

    But one thing is for sure with her, is that artificial consequences, motivational rewards and “behavioral methods” of learning of any kind do not work for her at all, and they tend to generate a lot of resistance. The only thing that really works at all for her is natural, as in real life consequences of failure!

    Great podcast, thanks.

  3. One thing that has helped me with my relationship with my 21 year old son is research into executive function skills. I am a retired speech pathologist and tutor. My son has OCD too, but at 21 has decided that he does not need my help. It has been hard for me as he used to accept my help on schoolwork. If your child has not had IQ testing I would look into that also. My son has an IQ in the low average range. I have tried to steer him towards a 2 year degree, but he is having trouble doing work that is not part of his natural interests. I am now giving him the support that IF HE CHOOSES TO DO THE WORK, he has a shot at succeeding. Kind of like a personal secretary, since his organizational skills are limited. WRITE DOWN the assignment and DUE DATE if you know it. Then walk away. Update the list as necessary. These kids stink at making lists as a rule. My son has poor working memory also (Executive Function area).

    Hang in there. Unfortunately there are many really poor counsellors out there that do not have experience with these young men and women. I find myself getting sucked into supporting him when I cycle out. He now has a young man as a tutor and is also a job coach through voc rehab. He sees what I see. Instead of obsessing about grades and his/her future, I would look into voc rehab in your area. I feel like I have “plan B” in my back pocket.

  4. I’m not sure if I should put this here or on the relationship thread … Maybe both? My daughter is 18 and has aspergers but undiagnosed.
    She has been dating her first boyfriend for 4 months. At first it went really well because she can actually do the superficial social stuff – it’s making a real connection with him she is having difficulty with. She seems to prefer to have a relationship via text message Than to actually spend time with him, because that’s awkward for her. He is NT and very sociable, he knows she has aspergers and is unfazed by it. He has diabetes and does undoubtedly suffer mood swings because of that although he doesn’t like to admit it. That’s difficult for Ellie as you will know because she has difficulty reading signals… But if she picks up any it is always the negative ones, which further damages her low self esteem.
    My problem is that i watch them struggle, and worry about my girl to the extent that it is taking over my life… I can’t think about anything else . I am trying to make up for my daughter’s lack of social skills by inviting him round, suggesting things for them to do etc. I send him messages nudging him if he hasnt been in contact for a while and send him lots of links to this blog and other articles … I don’t know whether he reads them.
    Theyre still not really connecting and maybe are drifting apart .. Yet something holds them together and I’m constantly trying to get them over the hurdle to be comfortable with each other ( well for Ellie to be comfortable with him, she’s so anxious and lacking in self esteem, needs constant reassurance that he doesn’t always give her)
    I know I should stop and leave them alone … The other week I really did decide to do that, and to let her fail … But that is so so hard to do.. And after a while I start saying ” invite him for tea” and so on, and I’ll send him an article about low self esteem and anxiety or something similar. He doesn’t like my interference… But he isn’t proactive enough and I’m just trying to protect my girl from hurt.i was so pleased she had a boyfriend, as before that she would just watch TV in her spare time ( she goes to college and has a part time job). She only has one friend, so really no social life apart from her boyfriend. They go out in a big group but she hasnt managed to connect with the others in the group except on a very “polite” superficial way, which is Ellie’s learned behaviour, and how she feels safe.
    I love and adhere to all your stuff about the sensory funnel and do my best to make home safe for Ellie . She has her spot on the sofa where she watches TV wrapped up in a blanket, and her bedroom. I support her constantly, as all parents do. And generally she functions really well which is why I’ve avoided diagnosis. This relationship has made her difficulties all too obvious though and I’m wondering whether I should pursue that route…or just follow the advice here, butt out, let her do it her own way and be here to pick up the pieces if necessary?
    What I’m hoping to get from this is responses from other parents who have been in similar situations. Any advice gratefully received.

    1. I couldn’t sleep last night because I just received my daughter’s Aspies diagnosis a few weeks ago. She’s now 16, but I have known that something was wrong for more than a decade. She has changed multiple schools due to bullying and honestly, both she and I can write multiple books because of the experiences some which were coupled with hospitalizations. Sadly, when the hospital staff is clueless of what the teen is suffering from, that presents another angle, a traumatic experience for someone who cannot even fully express how they fee. Our journey has been a very long one a true story that I can be heart wrenching for many. I”m in a lot of pain but I feel better this morning after coming across this blog.

      Jill, thank you for sharing about what your daughter is going through especially with dating. I have a very similar situation currently at hand except that my daughter has a great relationship with this guy and they are just very good friends at the moment. The guy mentioned a few days ago that he has developed feelings for her and Im panicking because I don’t want her heart to be broken if things do not go well. My daughter may eventually gravitate towards the negatives, which obviously may damage her self esteem when things do not go her way. She is very honest and too trusting.

      I have asked the therapist/psychologist to start talking to her about her diagnosis, what dating looks like and working on social skills using videos and visuals (depicting successful individuals who have Aspergers) and she seems to be doing ok. I have noticed that she is doing more research on her own regarding being on the Autism Spectrum.. She is avoiding the topic with me but researching independently. I know that soon, she will have many questions. An interesting thing is that she completed an assessment and actually scored her own self as having Aspergers. The psychologist mentioned that it was a very good thing because it shows that she actually knows herself and what she can and cannot do.

      The biggest challenge for me is whom to disclose the diagnosis to. I will have to ask my daughter what she feels comfortable with but i also believe that most likely she will want to “spill the beans” because she cannot handle the anxiety of not telling the truth. Im really hoping that I can connect with parents including teens who are feeling isolated because they have Aspergers. Im wondering if there is a website for teens with Aspergers so that they can meet others just like them. My daughter prefers writing and texting and often struggle with one on one interactions.


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