An Exploration of Sacred Parenting and Education

Rising From Failure

In Education, Healing, parenting on January 18, 2012 at 9:45 pm

Yesterday Mohammed Ali, the legendary boxer regarded as the greatest by many, celebrated his 70th birthday. I used to have a massive poster of him on my wall during my teen years. Hi motto of ‘fly like a butterfly and sting like a bee’ reflected a wisdom and intelligence which challenges the all or nothing approach taken by Rocky. What made him great in my eyes, wasn’t his amazing dancing skills in the ring which he seemed to have lost after being banned for five years due to his refusal to go to war in Vietnam or his success against opponents like Sunny Liston or George Foreman which experts had predicted as impossible, or even his wit outside the ring but the fact that he was able to rise from losing fights and was able to call on the Supreme Being to help see him through the final rounds of some extremely demanding fights. Boxing saw many talents to arise in the years to come. A boxer who actually did the Ali shuffle (imitating Ali’s footwork before throwing a lighting speed punch) in the ring was Naseem Hamed. Many still remember him today. Although Hamed had bucket loads of talent and confidence he didn’t seem to recover from his defeat to Barrera, as Tyson didn’t from Holyfield and George Foreman from Ali.

Like many parents, I think learning a martial art at a young age has a range of benefits to include confidence and discipline. It doesn’t have to be an aggressive form, there are ‘softer’ forms of martial arts like Aikido or Judo which work with re-directing the force of a bigger opponent that can be as effective if not more deadly than the ‘yang’ forms of martial arts. Although martial arts may develop mental toughness, it may not necessarily teach them to be resilient in the face of failure. May be this needn’t be taught and is already there present within children – all that needs to be done is not to obscure it over the years with conditional love based on any expectations of achievement or in the worse case scenario punishing kids in any form for making a mistake. What do you think? I see learning from ‘failure’ or mistakes as so important to the learning process and to problem solving that I feel no creativity or deeper learning can take place without it. i.e once a child fears making a mistake they may lose touch with their natural curiosity and joy for learning. An Arabic teacher once quoted a saying at the beginning of his class ‘two people will never learn; the arrogant and the shy’. Scientists such as Einstein spent years in turmoil wrestling with equations and ideas; it took him ten years to move from special to general relativity (some say due to being weak in Maths). As a teacher of Mathematics, I wished some students would learn to sit with a problem over a day or two and not demand instant results. If you have a few minutes, the video clip embedded is worth a watch. The more I study great people I see a common denominator – their persistence in the face of failure. How can we cultivate this in today’s children who seem to be in the habit of instant ‘everything’.

May be part of the process of recovering from failure requires acceptance. The Turks have a word for it ‘Ayvallah’ or ‘as God has willed’. A good way to teach this would be to use the word around children when things haven’t gone as planned.  There is one thing that I feel may be worth pondering – especially when parents feel they need to be in control or have the upper hand; to what extent are we working with the will of the child?. When it doesn’t suit our agenda do we meet it with a forceful ‘no’ or can we, as in Aikido, redirect it through discussion, diversion & choice? (choice works brilliantly for me when I get stuck!).

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