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7 Ways to Teach Children about Failure

Most kids are afraid to fail because they are not taught about the benefits of it. As a child you also see your parents try to shield you from failing because they want to protect us. If we realise that failure is good and is a step in the right direction. Failure is a necessary component of success and not the other way around. In Fact, our brains grow and develop when a failure occurs.

When you as parents think about your biggest challenges what do you remember about the lessons it taught you. It must have made you courageous and wise which is crucial in the path to success because there is no improvement like learning and adapting from your mistakes. The reason parents try to shield their children from failure is that they have felt the pain and they always want the best for their children so they try to avoid it at all costs. What if you are able to show your child it is a learning moment? The best lesson you can give your kids is the one that prepares them for the real world. 

1. Focus on A Growth Mindset

As we have learnt a growth mindset empowers children to use all situations to learn. It also changes their reaction to failure. 

A recent study by Developmental Cognitive Science shows that after making a mistake children with growth mindsets show a larger brain response than children with a fixed mindset. While failure is unavoidable, but by focusing their attention on what went wrong and which steps they could have taken to fix, children with growth mindsets can turn negative experiences into positive learning moments. 

Children with growth mindsets are also more likely to improve their performance as a result.

2. Let Failure Occur

As a child, I have always recognised that my parents have tried to stop me from making the same mistakes as them but experiencing failure has changed me for the better. It teaches children that failure is not the end-all, one failure does not define them. This allows them to bounce back much faster and not let their failures define them. 

Sometimes experiencing challenges is the only way to develop certain problem-solving skills and coping mechanisms. I understand that it is very difficult for parents to allow their children to fail but ask yourself some questions, will my child learn from this situation if I step back and allow the situation to unfold? Failure is not fatal and these learning moments will help your child and you.

3. Celebrate Failure

Failure is a student’s best teacher. So why not celebrate every opportunity where failure could be an opportunity to learn?

Introduce “Failure Fridays” once every Friday. Let the child read and learn about a famous person who failed and how they learnt and bounced back.

Each day focus on a good mistake that your child has made and ask them to think about what went wrong and what they think they could have done to solve it.

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4. Understand ‘The Learning Pit’

The highs in life are especially rewarding when you have had the lows that have made you stumble. Created by James Nottingham, ‘The Learning Pit” is a simple and effective framework that shows the importance and learning from stumbles. 

When faced with a difficulty, all of us must voyage into ‘the pit’ of uncertainty. Thoughts like “I have failed” or “I’m stuck” are just clues that deeper thinking and learning are happening within your mind. Teaching children about the ‘pit’ metaphor makes it a part of the daily vocabulary. Then the most important thing is to teach them how to get out of the ‘pit’ by persevering and staying committed to achieving their goals.

5. Explain How The Brain Works

If you make your children aware of the fact that the brain learns and grows from mistakes, will that not rewire a child’s perception of the consequences of making mistakes?

 I believe that children are constantly worried about failing and being perfect while those are good aspirations and if they understand that getting things wrong will then help them retain it better it will be a new way for them to evolve their learning. A child’s best friend is knowledge and information they will surprise you more than you think they will give them that chance. 

6. Emphasize Learning From Mistakes

There is a business concept called ‘failing forward’ which in essence means learning from your mistakes. Failing is as inevitable as it is valuable. Focusing on the positive aspects of the mistake can make it a more fruitful experience for the child. As parents the best thing a parent can do for their child is be there for them when they make a mistake and show them the right way to get through their errors.

7. Teach the Mindful Approach

Even with these strategies, failure can overwhelm the child. Training kids to take a mindful approach is helpful in getting through hard emotions like sadness and anger. 

The relationship between mindfulness and resilience is well established. The RAIN technique created by Michelle McDonald, is an interesting way for kids to notice and acknowledge their feelings. 

Here are the four steps:

R-Recognize what is happening (Understand what your body and brain is experiencing)

A-Allow life to be just as it is (Not all feelings are detrimental some can stay the way they are)

I-Investigate with kindness (Understand why you are feeling this way)

N-Non-Identification (The thought or emotion does not define me)

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Akhil Ambani

Author: Akhil Ambani

I am a 3rd-year Business Management student at Babson College. I am currently interning with Lido.

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