For a few weeks we have been talking about the topic of failure. We have looked at how failure is a part of life and can be an important part of success. We inherently know this as parents, yet we, and society as a whole, are creating an environment where kids cannot fail, or at least we do not let them fail, or worse they never fail because they avoid it at all costs.
So the question is: How do we create an environment for our kids where failure is a positive part of growing up? How do we let them fail but not become failures? How do we know when to let them stumble and when to intervene and help? How do we teach our children to see failure as a positive but not as an excuse? I recently read an article by Amy McCready on steps that parents can take to help create a place where failure can be a powerful tool for growing up. Here are the five steps she listed to help students succeed through failure:
- Take a leap – as a family. Let your kids know that risk-taking is an important value in your family, and follow through with your actions. Share with your children how you’ve made mistakes and kept on trying. When risk-taking is a family value, kids will want to take on more new challenges and experiences, whether it’s trying the scariest rollercoaster in the park or signing up for calculus.
- It’s okay for failure to be familiar. No matter what it is – tying our shoes, sinking free throws, or diagramming a sentence – we’re bound to have a few hiccups along the way as we learn. Make sure your kids know to expect some failures as they try new things, and let them know that it’s normal and expected. Emphasize the positives of learning from your mistakes and how we can learn from our miscues.
- Look at those who have risen above. Some of the most successful people in the world, from business tycoons to all-star athletes, had to overcome major obstacles and failures throughout their careers – think Michael Jordan, Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey.
- Run a post-game analysis. While we naturally want to step in when our kids do fail, we need to avoid rescuing them. We can, however, support them and do a run-down of what happened and what to try next time.
- Support your student by letting go. Many times parents feel just as much pressure for their kids to bring home a straight-A report card as the students do. School is one of the hardest places to let our kids fail, but it’s one of the best – and most important – places for them to learn to take on responsibility for their own success.