Firstly, let’s understand this: to learn we must fail. Yes, that’s right. Failure provides us with opportunities to learn and an opportunity to reflect. Like Thomas Edison once said: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that it won’t work.” Every attempt is a lesson to learn.
Many of us are constantly held back by the fear of failure. But how do we ensure that our children adapt the mindset of, “you won’t succeed unless you try’’? How do we ensure that they experience true freedom through embracing failure?
First and foremost you need to show empathy. We need to empathise with our child when we see that they are in distress. If you only say things like “It is okay, you will do better next time”, it can make your child feel as if their feelings of frustration and disappointment are being brushed off. This can escalate the feeling of distress they are already feeling. Rather try and level with your child. Try saying “I can see that you are really disappointed by this and I know you are really hoping to do better.”
Explain to them that failure is inevitable and happens to everyone. Tell your child about a time when you failed and how you dealt with it but most importantly remember to tell them what you learned from your failure and how you came out better on the other side of it. Make your child understand that things do not always go according to plan and if they don’t, that it is 100% okay.
See your child’s failures as an opportunity to teach acceptance and an opportunity to develop their problem solving skills. It is a great idea to spend time with your child and try to come up with an action plan together on what to do to have a better chance at success next time around. Try exploring areas such as different teaching techniques or perhaps entertaining the idea of making use of a tutor. According to Dr Mintzer, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, it is a balance of acceptance and change and about accepting that the situation is what it is and building frustration tolerance while at the same time asking if you can change something in the future or how to learn from it.
Children need to be taught that when we do fail, we cannot do much about it in the heat of the moment, sometimes we need to accept the outcome and move on. Many of us are constantly held back by the fear of failure. The unseen hazards of social media are often overlooked, for example, if a girl’s friend tells her that she will not be able to go to the movies with her tomorrow night but afterwards she sees her friend posting a picture with someone else at the movies on Instagram, her feelings will be hurt. These instances are where we need to teach our child that calling the friend and screaming at them because she is angry and feels she failed at a friendship will make matters worse. We need to teach them that there is an option to ignore the situation and not engage in confrontation. This might not make her feel better and this is where you as a parent need to give guidance and empathy to help your child deal with the disappointment.
Our children should learn not to have a too high regard for others opinions. We are too scared about what teachers, tutors, parents and friends would think about us if we fail. We are too concerned about what society will say if things don’t go as planned. Worrying about other people’s opinions will prevent you from reaching your goals and dreams. Teach your child that in life, one sometimes will get into a situation where you might have to make an unpopular decision to achieve success. If you are constantly worried what other people think it will prevent you from making the right decision
Be an example to your child by striving to constantly grow and move forward. Should we fail, we have to look at it as a lesson to learn, adjust the route, adapt to changes and try again, but now with better knowledge. If appropriate, discuss your failure with your child and share your story on how you dealt with it. We have all heard the stories of failure, Einstein was classified by his teachers as “mentally slow” and Walt Disney was fired from one of his first jobs due to “lack of creativity”. Don’t be afraid to fail, dare to take risks, fail again, try again and reach your full potential.
GT Scholars is a not-for-profit social enterprise that provides a range of courses and workshops. Our growth mindset course focuses on helping young people and parents have a full understanding of growth mindset and how to apply this in their everyday lives. Find out more about our courses and workshops here.