The ‘f’ word might be just one of the most fearsome in the English dictionary. But it needn’t be that way. Failure is merely a vehicle to teach us how to deal with challenges and find better ways of doing things. As many entrepreneurs will vouch, failure is an inevitability on the path to success.
Can we help children overcome a fear of failure and learn to embrace setbacks as a means for future success? After all, there is nothing to fear but fear itself.
As the famous quote by Robert F Kenney goes: “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”
So, what can we teach the next generation to help them embrace setbacks and overcome fear of failure?
Children are keen to impress the people they hold in high regard, such as parents and teachers. Therefore, it’s important to praise and recognise their efforts for their hard work, rather than their actual ability.
If we teach children that we are proud of their efforts, then fear of failure is less of an issue.
It may seem counter-productive, it may sound like a radical strategy. However, risk taking is an important way for children to improve and enhance their development. Encourage your child to take risks; and by risks we mean the right sort of risks. Dare to try something new, instead of the same old routine, encourage them to push boundaries and to remember that there is nothing to fear.
Learning from mistakes
One of the reasons why children are reluctant to fail is because they are out of their comfort zone. But it’s important to teach children that we learn from setbacks and it’s an essential part of personal development and growth.
Think back to examples you can share with your child about situations where you learn from setbacks you have faced in life and what it taught you. Remind them that we are stronger, more resilient and better equipped each time we bounce back from knock-backs, as such it’s something we must all overcome.
Teach children to learn from failure
No-one likes a sore loser, so the earlier you can teach your child to lose gracefully the better. Younger children especially can find this a hard notion to grasp, so try another tactic, such as asking them what they learnt from the experience.
There is no doubt that in every setback we face in life, there is a lesson to be learnt and a better way of achieving success in the future. If you can remind your child that in order to develop it’s essential to learn from failure, you will be equipping them with the right skills for the future.
Help your child to problem solve
Problem solving is a learnt skill and one that can be honed and developed with practice. From board games to puzzles, and computer games to daily sport, there’s plenty of daily interactions that we can use to encourage children to problem solve.
Why is this important? Because, failure is often at the point at which we give up or discontinue. Learning therefore to be persistent, to overcome a challenge or find a solution to a problem is the best way to overcome it.
Talk things through
It’s good to talk, no really it is. Having an open and honest dialogue with your child will help build trust and respect. It will also encourage your child to feel that they can talk to you about anything. After a defeat, talk to your child about their feelings and encourage them to open up about what has upset them and what you need to do to overcome those feelings. With wellbeing rightfully high on the agenda, and mental health taking centre stage in recent years, it’s important to talk to your child.
Let them fail
Watching a toddler learn to walk can be a frustrating and funny experience. Without your help them fall down and then pick themselves up again. The same is true of older children.
Letting your child fail is as much about learning new ways of operating for yourself, as it is about your child. Studies have shown that parents today can be overprotective and ‘failure-preventative’ which undermines your child’s self-confidence. As the findings report: “The children of parents who support autonomy are more competent and resilient in the face of frustration, so give kids space to work through temporary setbacks”
Failure is temporary
It’s never nice to see your child upset, but reminding them that failure is temporary is an important part of the process. It’s also a necessary part in order for them to understand the glory of success, and frustration of failure.
Teach them that success comes from failure
Lionel Messi, Superwoman, the Spice Girls? Whoever your child’s hero is, find out more about their journey to illustrate the many struggles they had to face. No doubt there were setbacks along the way, which they were forced to overcame. Teaching your child that success comes from failure will go some way in educating them about the hard work involved in rising to the top.
Help them to embrace failure
Children learn from the people around them. So, the next time you face a setback, show them how to cope with it. This might be rejection for a job, or not passing a test or it could be as simple as not completing a run in the time you hope for, despite your best training efforts. Use the opportunity to show them how you embrace failure and how it helps you with overcoming fear.
A positive mindset
One reason why daily sport is great for children, is because of the many lessons it teaches them. When kids play sport, they are learning lots of positive ways to deal with challenging situations. A positive mindset is central to all of this. Embracing some of the sports coaching techniques we know, invite your child to reflect on the positives, look at constrictive ways to overcome the negatives, and slowly you will be a resilient child that isn’t afraid to face their fears.
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