Wheaton Montessori News

Failure Tolerance – Helping Your Child Grow

Categories: Coffee and CommuniTEA / For Parents / General Knowledge Fund / Montessori At Home

Mrs. Fortun spoke with parents at a previous CommuniTEA about an idea put forth by Alison Gopnik in “The Gardener and the Carpenter,”  that we should be “gardeners” and not “carpenters” for our children.   Gopnik’s idea is that as parents, we cultivate the soil for our children, providing a healthy environment in which they can grow.   We feed them nourishing food, provide them experiences, love, and support, and watch them grow.   In comparison, a carpenter approaches a project with a particular set of plans, materials, exact measurements and steps, and expects a very specific and predictable result.   Mrs. Fortun urges us to be the gardeners, providing a nourishing environment in which our children can thrive.


The Pressure to Be Perfect Parents


Part of watching your child grow is letting them grow a strong foundation.  Many times, this is easy for parents.  They read to their children when they can, take them to school and activities, play with them, guide them, feed them, etc.   We know how to do those tasks and many times we can even know that we’re doing them well!

However, one part of helping your child grow stronger can be difficult, especially in our current culture.  Constant access to information via social media, internet articles, and parenting blogs has a downside: Information (and advice) Overload. We have so much information!  We know more about “parenting” than any generation of parents has ever known!  The end result is that parents put an enormous amount of pressure on themselves to “get it right”, to always provide the best for their children, for their children to always be happy.   If a child experiences disappointment, sadness, or frustration, parents see it as a personal failure.


Failure and Conflict Tolerance in the Larger Environment


One of the most important tasks as a parent is also one of the most difficult.  We must let our children experience some amount of disappointment, failure, and frustration.  They must learn the emotional and practical skills necessary for dealing with failure.  Mrs. Fortun reminded parents that as the “gardeners,” they have “cultivated the soil.”  We should not “uproot” the child’s development because of “passing storm.”


Let your children experience some disappointments and failures.  Let them grow stronger by learning from mistakes.  Let your children know that you believe them to be capable of the chance to work through a conflict or issue.  Encourage communication, empathize, and help them come up with a plan for the future.   You have cultivated the soil – which includes giving your child opportunities to develop conflict resolution skills.  Mistakes become part of the “everyday,” which your children can work through, relying upon their own experience and confidence in their abilities to learn, try again, and persevere.


Mrs. Fortun pointed out, somewhat in jest,  “Otherwise, as an adult in the ‘real world’?  They won’t know how to deal with failure; they won’t know how to learn from it and move on.  They end up being adults with mental health issues.”


What can you do as a parent?


Mrs. Fortun tells us, “Let the child know that you believe that she is CAPABLE of the chance to work through the situation.  It will help her develop confidence in herself.”  Instead of stepping and and solving the problem for your child, help them develop a plan of action.  How can they prepare differently next time?  What was it that went “wrong?”  If the conflict is with another child or teacher, encourage your child to communicate with the other person, not rely on you to do the communicating for them.  Mrs. Fortun suggests telling your child, “I can’t wait to hear how it went!” as a way to let them know that you’re interested in the outcome and hearing about their efforts.




Scholastic Book Fair
Feb 20 all-day
CommuniTEA with Mrs. Carrillo
Feb 20 @ 8:15 am – 9:15 am

Join Mrs. Carrillo for Coffee and CommuniTEA as she leads a parent discussion group.


Please arrive promptly for the 8:15 a.m. meeting, so that Mrs. Carrillo can return to her classroom and your students when the discussion has concluded.