Don’t bury your failures; let them inspire you. -Kiyosaki

In 1729, Jonathon Swift established a new genre of writing with his straightforward satirical piece, “A Modest Proposal.” In it, he deadpanned a solution to the economic hardship visited upon the Irish as a result of having too many children. Swift whimsically advised that poor Irish parents sell their children to rich citizens of England as foodstuffs.

In his own way, Swift was the vanguard for the cognitive therapist and my own simple metaphor of the “snowman.” Swift’s satire and sarcasm, nearly 300 years ago, was actually a plea for the humane treatment of children. It also represented the pursuit of a solution for a legitimate issue that still exists today: world hunger and social inequality. It called for clear thinking and rational problem solving. Swift challenged the beliefs of a dominant society, in this case England, about a less powerful one, Ireland.

When it comes to children and clear thinking today, how are we doing? As my students and readers understand, my metaphor of the “snowman” suggests that all behavior flows from our thoughts – our operative beliefs. Simply stated, our operative beliefs are the ideas that dictate our actions. One such 20th and 21st century belief in America is that a child’s self esteem is paramount; that feeling good about oneself at all times (even in the face of data that suggests the opposite) is essential.

How is that working out for us? I’d sadly observe, not well. Worshiping at the altar of self-esteem, “helicopter” parents challenge and deride the grades of teachers and the choices of sports coaches, lest their offspring experience the sting of low grades and the disappointment of being cut from a team.

So what is my “even more modest proposal”? Allow our children to feel the painful but, hopefully, motivational pain of failure. A poor grade or failing performance invites two potential operative beliefs:

Choice #1 – “The teacher doesn’t like me or the boss is playing favorites.”

Choice #2 – “Perhaps I need to work harder or study more.”

Which of the above two trains of thought, which operative belief, better describes yours? Which more accurately portrays the messages that you have convey to your children? Honestly (and fearlessly) examine that question.

Swift’s satire, 300 years ago, begged for rational thought. The “snowman” seeks the same. Think about it.

Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm. – Churchill