For many of us, the word failure often conjures up negative emotions, disappointment, and pain. We were raised to believe that failure is a terrible thing we must avoid at all costs.
Failure is a state of not meeting an expectation, outcome or desire. We all experience this from time to time. How we move through it, accept it, or fear it differs from person to person. Over time, we become conditioned in our response to failure.
Let’s look at the benefits of failure. Yes… there are benefits! Despite not being taught or conditioned to believe that there is an upside to failure, we can unlearn this. Failure has been tied to our sense of self-worth and self-esteem. However, it doesn’t have to be. We learn so much about ourselves and the world around us when we look at our failures with a different lens—a lens of openness and non-judgment.
Think about a time or situation in the past that you would deem a “failure.” Do we learn lessons from getting it “right” on our first attempt every time? Typically, the answer is no. We learn so much more about ourselves and about life when we do not meet an expectation or desired outcome, forcing us to redirect or pivot. Becs Gentry, Peloton instructor and Olympic runner uses FAIL as an acronym for “first attempt in learning.”
When you think about the idea of failure as a first attempt in learning, what does it mean to you? Changing our mindset around failure to be a learning experience is a key element for success. The more we step into our “FAILures,” the more we gain information and understanding about ourselves and the world, which ultimately provides us insight to do better in our next attempt in learning.
Failure is an experience we need to connect with, not fear. For many, we must allow ourselves the opportunity to let go of what we have been taught to believe about failure and step into what we now know: mistakes and failure are both opportunities for growth and learning.
How can we create an environment for our children to see failure as a first attempt in learning, without the negative underpinning that many of us grew up with? It starts with creating an atmosphere focused on growth through process rather than outcome.
Here are some ideas on how to create a positive approach to failure in your family:
- When your children fail, don’t rescue them or try to protect them from this experience; instead, allow their failure be an opportunity for learning. Engage in conversation with your children about what they are taking away from the experience and how they plan to do things differently in the future. This helps our kids learn coping skills that will serve them throughout their lifetime.
- Promote failure neutrality when engaging with your children about mistakes and failures. It is important that our energy is calm, accepting and non-judgmental. Our kids will pick up on energy that is not neutral and then internalize it.
- Embrace failure. Acknowledging and embracing our own failure models it for our children to perceive failure in this way.
- Empathize with and validate your child. Failure doesn’t have to feel good, and it likely won’t at first. Honor your child’s feeling without devaluing their experience or brushing it off. Instead of saying, “see what happens when” or “don’t worry, it will be okay,” hear them and acknowledge their disappointment.
- Be a model. When you experience a failure, talk about it. The more we can show our children how we ourselves learn from and accept failure, the easier time they will have adopting this into their own lives.
- Offer your child an opportunity to be a problem-solver in their own life. Talk through what happened and how they are feeling. Ask if there is something that they would have liked to do differently. For example, if they failed a test because they did not study, rather than bringing negativity to the circumstance, ask if there is anything they could take away from the situation to do differently in the future. Be sympathetic to their feelings without judgment. As we move forward, we learn from experiences by bringing attention to the situation and their natural consequences.
- Allow your children the opportunity to experience their own failures.
- Manage your own expectations. If you expect that your children are always going to be ‘A’ students and you do everything in your power to help them achieve this expectation by saving them when they forget their homework or by ensuring they are on target with their studying, they will likely not experience failure.
Failure is an integral part of life. When our children are given the opportunity to experience failure, they learn how to find a way to bounce back and often become stronger and more resilient not in spite of these experiences, but because of them. When we fear failure rather than accepting and embracing it, we set ourselves and our children up for disappointment, intolerance, and pain.
Check out the audio version: Please support our podcast by subscribing, rating and reviewing while you are visiting. Thank you!!