I sat for my West Africa School Certificate Examination Council (WASCEC) sometimes in the late ’80s with a barren, desolate, and impoverished mind, haven being a victim of a troubled childhood. A nasty experience that deprived me of the needed inner strength, mental capacity, and formidable force to proceed to write such a pivotal School Certificate Examination. But I had to in anyway.

Expected of a very poor student my WASCEC result with just TWO PASSES (P8) was ranked among the worst results to have come out of my Secondary School, in Ibadan, Oyo state, Nigeria. The projected outcome only heralded the moment of humiliating rebuff, shaming, insulting, and beating , from all stakeholders around. Yet, none was ready to accept the share of the responsibilities for the woeful performance. While all these abuses lasted, dangerous but difficult options raced through my mind all in seconds. This is a story for another day.

Then came a change of environment; where an inexorable state of emergency was declared on my education and all the stakeholders around also prevailed on my Mother that I should go back to FOURTH FORM (what is known as SS2 now) to make room for adequate preparation even as against my wish to retake the next MAY/JUNE WASCEC.

Momentarily, the thought of shame pervaded through me but I had to bite the bullet after the consensus was that my result was not good enough to merit my decision which means I’d have additional TWO years to prepare for the WASCEC. The decision eventually yielded desired outcome by dint of hard work as my final result then was ranked among the very bests in the history of the school.

One of the great lessons, I learnt from that unavoidable encounter is that going through the harrowing experience of failure is part of the needed route one may need to pass in gaining wining strategies over any prevailing circumstances in life; the degree of its occurrence or recurrence in individual’s life may be different. This was my story. My foundation.

You’d agree with me if you have been following this series in the past weeks that our wrong intention and insincerity as parents are not the only limiting factors impeding us on the job, but the perceptible deficiency in our central message of love, care, and protection, even when we are sincere with good intention.

Some of us caregivers; parents and teachers have misguidedly projected to kids a one sided coin of life with only one choice or possible outcome and today’s kids(youth) will (have) leverage(d) on such due to our insensitivity in being unable to present the true nature of life to them.

As parents, we have generously given them lots of ownership but not many perspectives;

As teachers/educators, we have loaded them with plenty of schools but meagre life skills;

As coaches, we have taught students how to win games, but not how to win in life;

As faith and youth workers, we provide lots of explanations but scanty experiences to win spiritual battles.

Every parent wants to see their kids succeed in school activities; academic, cultural, sports, and in life. It is our joy to see them winning because we believe such will produce highly confident kids. This must not be done by willfully removing failures as they grow up. Such is in fact , a prodigious way to impede complete growth. What this means is we may have succeeded unknowingly in creating for them an institutional malaise which may eventually manifest in them in adulthood.

We frown this day at making our children to experience setbacks which often makes them unprepared to navigate as they reach 20s. I am not sure many parents would agree their wards experience TWO years setbacks as I was even in the same circumstances as mine! Initially I failed, but the surrounding stakeholders helped me get back, by impressing it on me to prepare hard, damn the shame, and succeed, which eventually paid off. But when situation of that nature occurs now, some parents habitually side with their children, and sometimes get the schools and teachers involved into trouble. We make excuses for kids not to fail. Some educators do same; we pass kids into the next class even if they aren’t really ready for it, and did not legitimately deserve it. But for the purpose of ratings or so we throw caution to the wind.

Here are the few of the reasons why we (some schools and parents) do this;
• Parents somehow turn their children to their trophies

• We want kids to live our unlived life

• We see them as reflections of our successes and achievements

• So, we can look and feel better among our friends and associates in the society

• We project in them fake identity by wanting them to become someone they are not.

• We sometimes take our frustrations out on them.

Please permit me to share a true life story; I witnessed an unpleasant scene in a prize giving day speech I attended in my daughter’s school where a mother yelled at the top of her lungs at her son, abusing him for not wining as many prizes as her class mates who ‘made their parents proud’ by wining Five different prizes or more. This happened in a full glare of publicity at the car park after the event. The boy’s shoulder slumped and almost in tears while he watched his mother’s rage in total disbelief. The boy tucked his tail between his legs and crawled his way into their car. He was utterly embarrassed before the crowd. I found this hard to believe and was equally dumbfounded.

This was just an incidence out myriads of unnecessary pressure we subject our children to. This poor boy certainly may grow up with some unhealthy emotions. Ever wondered why we have the scourge of teen suicide in our country?

When parents put much pressure in a bid to prevent their kids from failing, three negatives outcomes will surface; it will dilute their motivation or willpower to succeed, they’d see failure as a plague, it will foster the fear of failure later in life as adults.

On the contrary, allowing them to experience failure where necessary will deliver unto them; RESILIENCE, BETTER PERFORMANC, CREATIVITY and INNOVATION, proper self evaluation, and eventually prepares them for a healthy maturity. The choice is ours.

What must we do as parents to help our children WIN in their failure; from my experiences drawn from personal life from childhood, and those on the job, I have few suggestions for parents, teachers, and educators.

[ ] Study to know your kids’ innate strengths with a view to helping him/her align them to his/her identity.

[ ] Inspire them to embrace RIGOROUS training, studying, reading, as an every day habit for success. It is high time we shifted our focus from the usual success outcome to learning or value outcome

[ ] A safe place to fail. This is about us caregivers creating enabling environment for kids to try something and fail, their performance will usually improve, and it will bring best out of them

[ ] Help them see the benefits of failure by telling them your stories or strories of others who once failed and won later in life. Failure is part of growing up and succeeding. It births in kids creativity and discovery.

[ ] Every parent and educator must stop cheating on kids. Encourage them to explore all kinds of ideas to discover what they want to do with their life. Give explanations and experiences and allow them do the projects or class works

Helping kids WIN in Failure is preparing them effectively to take up mountains at adulthood; life is full of ups and downs. Failure almost always precedes success, the BIG WIN. One of the indispensable facts I have known on this field work is that the biggest indicator of success at age 32 is hinged mostly on what we reinforce kids with when they were with us.

Thank you for your time.

Akinropo Akinola
CEO, Parenmark School of Parenting


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