‘Failure Forces You to Assess Yourself’

Tucker Carlson talks about the virtues of flunking — with applications for parents and kids

It has only been a few days since news broke that Fox News decided to move Tucker Carlson to the 9 p.m. slot to replace Megyn Kelly — and he is clearly in the zone to speak his mind more than ever. His new gig begins Monday night.

Carlson made an argument Sunday morning on the Fox News show “Media Buzz” about the virtues of failure — and how winning teaches us nothing. This is certainly not a new thought — but it remains a compelling one. He was referring to his earlier gigs in television before hitting his stride at Fox. (The superstitious among us would also describe this as a gutsy topic for someone about to tackle a high-profile new post on TV — Katie Couric, anyone?)

Kids know when they’ve messed up, and it’s often the spur for them to try harder the next time.

Nevertheless, his excellent point has broad and important implications for families everywhere. Helicopter parents seem to think failure need not be recognized, need not even occur, ever — and that every child should be valued, praised, cheered at every moment of the day. Even the kid who just missed a pop fly and cost his baseball team a victory ought to be praised, in these parents’ minds, because he or she “tried so hard. Hurray for you!”

First, kids see right through this untrustworthy and shrill fakeness. They know when they’ve messed up, and it’s often the spur for them to try harder the next time.

Second, for the uninitiated, the term “helicopter parent” was first used way back in Dr. Haim Ginott’s 1969 book “Parents & Teenagers,” by teens who said their parents would hover over them like a helicopter. The term took its own sweet time to become a dictionary entry — in 2011, to be exact. The catch is, the ’69 teens bemoaned their parents doing that. Kids since 2011 don’t know any other way.

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“This is a style of parents who are over-focused on their children,” said Carolyn Daitch, Ph.D., director of the Center for the Treatment of Anxiety Disorders near Detroit and author of “Anxiety Disorders: The Go-To Guide.” “They typically take too much responsibility for their children’s experiences and, specifically, their successes or failures.”

Carlson talked Sunday morning about past failures, suggesting that without them he almost surely wouldn’t be where he is today — which is probably the case.

Now, “winning teaches you nothing” may be a bit extreme — surely being a gracious winner, acknowledging those who made it possible (and indeed being aware of exactly what they did to help make that victory happen), and taking that victory to the next level are all valuable skills in life and key lessons. But it can be argued that without the thickened skin and heightened awareness of where you are coming up short in life, you would have a significantly tougher time not just entering the real world that awaits after college, but in progressing through all parts of life.

Related: With Tucker at 9 P.M., Fox Goes for Young Demo

Ann Dunnewold, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist and author of “Even June Cleaver Would Forget the Juice Box,” prefers the term “over-parenting” to “helicopter parenting” when described how too many parents operate today.

“It means being involved in a child’s life in a way that is over-controlling, overprotecting, and over-perfecting, in a way that is in excess of responsible parenting,” Dr. Dunnewold explained.

Carlson has been the host of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” for mere weeks — only since November — which already reeks of a winning streak (for now!). His ratings have been through the roof and he’s particularly appealing to a younger demographic. So it is no wonder he is moving to the prime 9 p.m. slot. But remember: He has also been a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars,” where failure was indeed an option.

In other words — Tucker Carlson knows whereof he speaks. And everyone can be the better for it.

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