“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?”

Over the last few weeks we have continued to focus on our theme, Fear<Less, and have been looking at one of our biggest fears, the fear of failure. We have discussed how failure is actually a part of life for all of us 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 feel like they cannot ever fail because we never let them.

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:

1. Take a leap – as a family. Talk with your children about how failure is an important part of learning. Share with them some stories of failures from your own life. When risk-taking is a family value, kids will want to take on more new challenges and experiences, whether it’s trying the scariest roller coaster in the park or signing up for calculus.

2. It’s okay for failure to be familiar. Teach your kids to expect some failures as they try new things and that it is normal. Focus on the positives of learning from mistakes and how that can lead to success.

3. Look at those who have risen above. The most successful people in the world all have faced failure and had it be a part of their stories. Have your children read the biographies of some people who have become successful; there is no doubt that their journey includes failure and how they persevered through it.

4. Run a post-game analysis. It is hard not to step in when our children are headed towards failure but we need to avoid rescuing them every time. An even more important step is to talk through the failure afterwards and help them see how it happened and maybe what they can do differently the next time.

5. Support your student by letting go. Many of us feel as much pressure to have our children get straight A’s as they do. School is one of the hardest places to let our kids face failure, but it can also be one of the best if we help them work through it.

Written by Karl Steinkamp

Karl Steinkamp is passionate about Dalat International School and training up young people. Karl was a student at Dalat and returned with a degree in education as a student teacher, high school principal, and now Head of School since 2006.
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