As a parent, watching your child fail is hard. Everything inside of you wants to rescue them so they won’t get hurt. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to stop your child from failing, nor is it healthy for them when you swoop in for the rescue. It turns out failure could be good for kids. You can teach your kids to deal with their mistakes and learn valuable life lessons whenever they falter.
How to Teach Children to Fail With Grace
Here are twelve ways to help your children learn to fail without fear.
1. Teach them to accept setbacks in life
Life is full of unexpected events. Teaching your child early to accept setbacks is critical to their ability to learn to fail without fear. Unfortunately, even well-meaning parents can inadvertently make a child fearful of failure. Here are some suggestions to help them view setbacks as a way of life.
- Setbacks: Although not pleasant, setbacks aren’t the end of the story. They’re an unexpected, temporary bump in the road.
- Keep moving: Setbacks are situations where you potentially need to change course, not give up. For example, maybe your child needs to repeat a class or try out for the soccer team when rejected by the football team. Changing course due to a setback can turn out for good.
- Parents have setbacks, too: When you experience setbacks, be sure to include your kids in the experience. Explain that you’re disappointed about needing to get a new job, that the family needs to move to help relatives, or not being able to work out a problematic family situation. As they witness how you go through the setback, it helps normalize failure and difficulties in life so they won’t be surprised or afraid of them.
2. Be honest about failure
Making failure the end of the world isn’t helpful for your child, but telling you that failure is a beautiful experience is also dishonest. Be honest. Failing is no fun. It stinks to fail at something you’ve worked so hard for. When you are unclear about failure, it sets your child up for:
- False expectations about life
- Feelings of shame when they fail
- Inability to deal with failing
- Overreacting when they make mistakes
- Withdraw emotionally when they fail
- May make fun of others who fail
- Lose their confidence
3. Praise their efforts rather than their abilities
Avoid simply praising your child’s abilities. Instead, ask them what strategies they used or how long it took them. Studies found that ability praise is ineffective when a child fails compared to effort praise. So if you give your child credit for their ability to do a task, it can lead them to feel helpless later on when they fail. They may feel negative about themselves and want to give up. Effort praise teaches kids to focus more on the process of their work and obtain new learning skills when they encounter setbacks. Ability praise causes kids to focus on a fixed mindset, but effort praise helps them have more of a growth mindset. Researchers also found that ability praise encourages kids to cheat because they can’t face failing. So, they fix the results to guarantee they don’t fail.
4. Model how to respond when they fail
More is caught than taught applies here. When you make mistakes, be sure to model persistence. Your example helps your kids learn how to respond to their mistakes. Learning to say things like,
- Today, I made the wrong decision, and I felt terrible. But I eventually figured out it was a good exercise in learning from my mistakes.
- I learned that….
- Talk about how you strategized and came up with a solution.
- Highlight your failures and how you persevered through them
5. Be empathetic when they fail
Failure is hard. No one likes to fail. If you see your child is having a hard time, remember to be empathetic towards them. Empathy is trying to understand and share how someone feels. When you show your child empathy, you learn about them and acknowledge the reality of what they’re going through.
You can say things like, I know you’re disappointed, and you’d hope to do better. Tell them stories about your failures if they relate. Don’t overshare or try to o cheer them up. Instead, try to show that you understand how hard it is. Come up with ideas for what to do next. Everyone experiences failure. Remind them they can try again.
6. Don’t over-parent
Overparenting is sometimes called helicopter parenting. Whatever you call it, it implies you’re too involved with your kids’ lives. It’s an attempt to cushion every failure or mistake your child makes so they never experience sadness or disappointments. Unfortunately, researchers say that overparenting is harmful to kids. Here are some dangers of overparenting your kids.
- A child doesn’t develop coping skills.
- They have a higher level of stress and anxiety
- These kids are more prone to depression
- They have a lower level of happiness in their life.
How do you know you’re overparenting?
Here are some signs of overparenting you should be aware of:
- Lingering over your children instead of encouraging their self-rule
- Worry a lot about your child getting hurt, being unhealthy, gaining weight
- Being too involved in your child’s life
- Making decisions for your child that they should make
- Trying to protect them from failure or disappointment
- Solving their conflicts for them
- Fear allowing your child to be in age-appropriate activities
- Want to be with kids all the time-in classes, and other activities
- Doing your child’s work
7. Teach your child that not everyone wins
Years ago, kids learned that everybody was a winner. Everyone got a trophy at sporting events. Today, psychologists say it was harmful to a whole generation of kids. When kids get rewarded for doing nothing, it teaches them that effort isn’t essential. If they grow up thinking life is going to be easy, that everyone wins, when they get hit by their first big disappointment, they will fall apart. Losing hurts, but it’s an essential part of their growth. Painful experiences teach kids how to face defeat and disappointment. These experiences prepare them for adulthood disappointments that are bound to come. So, let your kids fail. Teach them failure is part of life.
8. Explain how everyone has different abilities and talents
Encourage your kids in their abilities, but don’t offer false hope. Giving them opportunities to explore their skills and talents helps them realize that even if they never become a pro football player, that’s okay. They can still enjoy the sport. Many people’s skills turn into life-long hobbies. You don’t need to make a career from every ability you possess. There are just some things in life they may not be well-suited for, and that’s okay. It’s good to learn these things in early life.
9. There’s always something you can learn
Failure is a teacher. Once you make a mistake, you know to avoid it next time. Failing causes you to slow down. It helps you look for another solution. Teaching your child the value of failure is better caught than taught. When they see you make mistakes and make new attempts, they gain wisdom and experience. These things get applied to your child’s life as they get older. For example, kindergartners learning to tie their shoes will get frustrated with their many failed attempts. You could buy them velcro shoes to solve their problem or encourage their efforts and gently give them tips on successful shoe tying. Eventually, they will succeed and be incredibly proud of their ability to tie shoes. They will begin helping other kids. Their failure made their success much sweeter.
10. Teach them not to fear failure
Because your kids can’t avoid failure, teaching them not to fear it is essential. When they see their mistakes as a means of self-growth, it removes the fear factor. Fear of failure keeps your kids from exploring new things. Failure gives them opportunities to understand more about themselves. It helps them
- See their flaws
- It gives them insights into life and the world around them
- It allows them to step back and assess how to change
- It forces them to see the world doesn’t revolve around them
- Protects them from being arrogant
- it teaches them humility
Failure hurts. It’s a humbling experience, yet your child can’t grow into their full potential without mistakes.
11. Help them learn to laugh when they fail
Making mistakes in front of your kids allows you to laugh at yourself. Don’t get mad, curse or blameshift. Instead, shake your head and laugh. Mistakes happen. Laughing about them makes them easier to deal with.
12. Fail with humble dignity
How someone fails is a good insight into their true character. Some of the most gifted athletes demonstrate dignity in the way they lose. Their humility inspires those who watch them. Teach your kids to fail well. Be an example of someone who fails with dignity.
Final Thoughts on Teaching Your Child to Fail Gracefully
It’s hard watching your child fail. Every parent wants to prevent their child from experiencing disappointments and pain. But, of course, you can’t stop them from making mistakes. Allowing your kid to fail could be helpful for them to grow into a well-adjusted adult. Failure teaches resilience and inspires problem-solving skills. But, of course, your child’s experience learning from mistakes starts with you. How you handle your mistakes will set an example for them. So start today by inspiring your kids not to fear failure but to allow it to teach and motivate them in their life.