Letting children fail can lead to their success

Published 10:58 am Tuesday, September 6, 2022

There is a fine line between giving a child a great experience and spoiling them. The motto “set your child up for success” sounds like a great plan. But as a parent, if I don’t teach my kid how to fail, and still persevere, I haven’t done a good job. 


This idea of setting your child up for success has infiltrated the hunting community to a point where some kids don’t know how to come home from a hunt empty-handed. Some parents are afraid that if their child doesn’t catch a fish, or shoot a deer, they will reject the outdoors for the instant gratification of video games. 

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox


That fear has crept up in my mind also, but the concern that my children would shrink at the possibility of failure scares me more. 


The last few Sunday afternoons were spent shooting skeet with my ten-year-old son, Paul. He has wanted to shoot doves and ducks for years, but rushing into shooting moving targets with other people around is a bad idea. 


Last dove season he toted his Red Ryder BB gun around the dove field. He learned gun safety, which shots are ethical, and how to stay still until the moment to shoot. 


This season Paul upgraded to a 20 gauge shotgun. After showing his knowledge of safety and ability to break a few clay pigeons, I gave him the green light to hunt doves. 


At sunrise on Labor Day, we were sitting in a dove field with our trusty retriever at the ready. Our deal was that after I shot ten, Paul could shoot six times to try and finish the field limit of 12 doves.  


Over the next hour, I shot 10 birds and he kept count better than the Count from Sesame Street. I think when I got to ten he had a similar laugh. 


I put my shotgun in his case while he loaded one shell in his over and under. His excitement was palpable as the first dove came into range. Kaboom!


No feathers fell and the dove flew on unscathed. Four more shots quickly followed almost as fast as he could reload. We were down to his last shot. 


I reminded him to keep pointing the barrel in a safe direction, shoot to where the bird is going, not where it is, and to keep the barrel moving. 


A group of four doves flew into range. Kaboom! Swing and a miss. With no more shells left, he put his gun back in his case and we called it a day. 


Could I have sat with him for two hours with 200 shells to make sure he shot one dove? Sure. But as we were walking back to the truck, he was already talking about our next dove hunt and how we need to practice with skeet more so he will make a better shot. 


Doves have humbled many a hunter. Some blame it on their shotgun or the wind. Paul knew he missed because he needed to be better and, more importantly, he wanted to work to be better. He failed. But how he handled the failure will hopefully lead to success in the dove field and life. 


Paul, with his trusty Retriever, Sage